The Australian Navy has six
Collins class subs, but only enough qualified sailors to provide crews for
three of them. Each boats requires a crew of 45 highly trained sailors (eight
of them officers.) In response to this shortage, the navy is offering large
cash bonuses to get existing submarine sailors to stay in the navy, and to
attract qualified recruits to serve on subs.
Collins class boats were built in Australia during the 1990s, and are based on
a Swedish design (the Type 471.) At 3,000 tons displacement, the Collins are
half the size of the American Los Angeles class nuclear attack subs, but are
nearly twice the size of subs Europeans are accustomed to designing and
building for their own use. Australia needed larger boats because of the sheer
size of the oceans in the area.
a lot of technical problems with the Collins class boats, which the media
jumped all over. The design of these subs was novel and ambitious, using a lot
of automation. This reduced the crew size to 45. A lot of the electronic
technology was obtained from the U.S., Australia being the only foreign navy
allowed access to some of this stuff. The problem with the small crew was that
every one of the sailors had to be pretty sharp to begin with, then required
years of training to learn the job.
Australian navy has been suffering from a serious geek shortage for several
years now. With a total strength of 13,000, being short a few dozen people in
some job categories can have serious repercussions, and that's what happened to
the submarine force. For example, the navy is short about a third of the marine
engineering officers it needs. There are less serious shortages in officers
specializing in electrical systems and weapons systems.Australian warships have been active in the
war on terror, resulting in many crews being away from home for up to six
months at a time. There are shortages of both officers and sailors with
situation is further complicated by a booming economy, and big demand for those
with engineering degrees, and a few years of experience. This makes it easy for
engineering officers to leave the navy and get a higher paying, and more
comfortable, job. The navy is responding with cash bonuses, better living and
working conditions, and other fringe benefits.
Western navies have similar problems, and have applied similar solutions, with
some degree of success.