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Water Transportation Occupations  
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Water Transportation Occupations

Job Outlook: Employment in water transportation occupations is projected to grow faster than average. Excellent job opportunities are expected as demand for people working in the shipping industry, particularly officers, is expected to be greater than the number of people wishing to enter these occupations.

Employment change: Employment in water transportation occupations is projected to grow 15 percent over the 2008-2018 period, faster than the average for all occupations. Job growth will stem from increasing tourism and growth in offshore oil and gas production. Employment will also rise in and around major port cities due to increasing international trade.

Employment in deep-sea shipping for American mariners is expected to remain stable. A fleet of deep-sea U.S. flagged ships is considered vital to the Nation's defense, so some receive Federal support through a maritime security subsidy and other provisions in laws that limit certain Federal cargoes to ships that fly the U.S. flag.

Employment growth also is expected in passenger cruise ships within U.S. waters. Vessels that operate between U.S. ports are required by law to be U.S. flagged vessels. The staffing needs for several new U.S. flagged cruise ships that will travel to the Hawaiian Islands will create new opportunities for employment. In addition, a small, but growing interest in using ferries to handle commuter traffic around major metropolitan areas should create some opportunities.

Some growth in water transportation occupations is projected in vessels operating in the Great Lakes and inland waterways as the economy recovers from the recession. Growth will be driven by demand for bulk products, such as coal, iron ore, petroleum, sand and gravel, grain, and chemicals. Since current pipelines cannot transport ethanol, some growth will come from shipping ethanol. Problems with congestion in the rail transportation system will increase demand for inland water transportation.

Job prospects: Excellent job opportunities are anticipated over the next decade as the need to replace workers, particularly officers, will generate many job openings. High turnover, the prospect of many retirements in the water transportation industry as a whole, and growth in the level of trade occurring worldwide will cause more jobs to be created than there will be people interested in taking them. The number of graduates from maritime academies has not kept up with the demand for officers on board ships. In addition, higher regulatory and security requirements has limited the pool of potential seamen. And a limited number of berths (beds) on board ships also is making it difficult for potential seamen to get the required number of hours on board ships to qualify for certain credentials. However, as the industry acknowledges these problems, living conditions, training, and opportunities for advancement should go up to attract more people to the occupations.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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