In all my years of covering the maritime industry (33), the most frustrating problem, the one that never goes away, rarely gets better, before getting worse again, involves labor issues. Trying to lure young people into the industry (one that’s not considered “cool” like, say, entertainment or computer programming) and keeping them there would qualify as the 13th challenge of Hercules, one that would frustrate even him.

In this month’s cover story, we take a look at workforce challenges facing the U.S. Coast Guard as it tries to buildup its fleet of Coast Guard cutters, the backbone of the agency. These ships include the Polar Security Cutter (3), Offshore Patrol Cutter (25), and Waterways Commerce Cutter (30).

Yes, we have the money, Congress saw to that, but we don’t have enough people to build them. Consequently, delivery dates have had to be pushed back. The first PSC was scheduled to be delivered this year, but the shipyard is going through a “re-baselining” that will push delivery back to 2029

“There is high demand for a relatively limited pool of shipyard workers and skilled tradespeople in general. That can make shipyard workforce development and retention challenging,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Chad Jacoby, assistant commandant for acquisition and chief acquisition officer, said.

Challenging? Admiral, you have a talent for understatement. Joey D’Isernia, chairman and CEO of Eastern Shipbuilding Group, which is building four OPCs, said his company has about 1,000 workers and needs at least 100 more, primarily skilled welders, electricians, painters, engineers, and various technical positions.

Think things are bad in the maritime industry? Our armed forces are taking drastic measures to resupply their ranks. The Navy has been lowering its standards in order to swell its ranks by accepting recruits who fail the Armed Services Qualification Test, people who don’t have a high school diploma or GED, and those who test positive for marijuana.

I don’t know what the answer to the workforce shortage is, but that’s scary. There’s a hundred fires in the Middle East, the Ukraine/Russia war has Eastern Europe on edge, and China’s air force is playing tag with us over the skies of the western Pacific Ocean. Yet we have no choice but to lower our standards for entering our armed forces? Geez…

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.