But delegates to Seatrade Offshore Marine & Workboats Middle East (SOMWME) will hear experts on how automation can solve the looming crisis.
The issue will be addressed on day one of the biannual SOMWME 2017 exhibition and conference at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from September 25-27, where speakers at the 'Manning Update' will assess the role of automation in tackling the ongoing challenge, said a statement issued by Seatrade Communications.
"The number of skilled personnel across multiple functions has been in decline for a number of years. In 2010, The Manpower Report by BIMCO and the ISF calculated the global supply of officers stood at 624,000, compared to a demand for 637,000, concluding the figures were 'near-ideal,'" said Seatrade marketing manager Emma Howell.
"However, by 2016, the shortfall stood at 16,500 officers and is predicted to rise to 147,000 worldwide by 2025. In the United States, figures published in 2016 by the US Maritime Administration placed the country's shortfall at 70,000 mariners by 2022."
Chief executive officer of The Nautical Institute, Captain John Lloyd, who will be a moderator at the event, commented: "The increasing sophistication of technology is opening the door to serious discussions about the remote control of ships, perhaps one day leading to completely autonomous vessels.
"While moving in this direction gives wonderful opportunities to improve reliability, one of the key challenges will be to balance the cost of reliability against performance and financial viability through savings. That is really a matter for the technologists and the economists to address," he added.
Automation in shipping is not a new concept; many responsibilities, checks and safety functions are now carried out autonomously. But in the age of driverless vehicles and remote-controlled drones, the first unmanned, autonomous ship, could be on the horizon.
Innovations in shipping could be leveraged to address a gap, rather than requiring existing specialists to up-skill. "On the operational side, it is important we create a regulatory framework which gives an opportunity for these vessels to be developed and then to identify the skills required to operate them safely and efficiently," Mr Lloyd continued.
"It is likely these skills will draw heavily on maritime knowledge and experience if we are to develop effective solutions. As the professional body for those in control of ships, The Nautical Institute is already actively engaged in these discussions and looks forward to the next generation of ships and operations supported by world-leading technology and innovation," he said.