Changing’seafarers culture and attitude

Tanker Operator’s annual Hamburg conference commenced with a presentation given by Martin Shaw, managing director, Marine Operations and Assurance Management Solutions (MOAMS) who highlighted the change in thinking regarding seafarers.

His conclusion was that the industry needed to focus on human contribution not human error. Are people on board only there to make mistakes, or are they the only thing that makes an imperfect ship and management system work? He asked.

We need to focus less on the potential for error and more on actual value, he stressed. “Decisions made at the front line by informed staff will have an immediate impact.”

Shaw listed four distinct eras of handling crew. These were - traditional, procedural, human element and the future.

He said that each era brought evolution but eventually succumbed to the law of diminishing returns, or environmental issues. “We need to finish the job on human element,” he said.

Rotterdam-based Clearwater Ship Management has developed what it calls a ‘Clearvision’ way of motivating and incentivising its seafarers and shore staff.

The company’s Capt Martijn Mobach said that team spirit is just as important as good material in a human sense.
He said that the company puts the seafarers at the centre of management and aligns them with the shipowner’s interests. People are central to the company’s DNA, he said.

Competency and attitude are more important than nationality, which was not the case several years ago. For example, he explained that Clearwater has many nationalities on board its ships today and everyone knows each other, so there are no problems.

Quoting Frederic Laloux’s book ‘Reinventing Organisations’, he said that worldwide we are entering into a new Conciousness Shift towards meaning, empowerment and self-management. Previous Conciousness Shifts were - renaissance, collectivism to individualism. Clearwater was following this course with a conscious shift towards self-management, he explained.

Although around 80% of incidents are down to human failure, conversely, 80% of a company’s success is down to human effort.

In a seafarer’s task, there is enough compliance and technical considerations, which he described as a self-feeding monster and explained that Clearwater attempts to bridge the gap by giving people a sense of awareness, a sense of engagement, inspiration and motivation.

“We need to make compliance workable again,” he said. “We need to lighten it up to make it workable. Cutting it back to the bone, we need to insert motivation.” Little motivations, such as how a company cares for the environment, could be added.

Appraisals should include feedback, as this is the breakfast of champions, he said. Crew are to be given an assignment planning for a year, so they feel appreciated and their families have a future to steer on.
He said that Clearwater crews are now on the same level by way of being motivated, connected and engaged with the company’s philosophy, which happened organically. When talking with the owners, it is a matter of - are we on the same page? Are we engaged on our joint mission?

Quoting Simon Sinek’s take on engagement, he said that the best starting point is ‘why’, rather than ‘how’ or ‘what’. Engagement starts with ‘why’ - mean it and live it, Capt Mobach said.

Engagement should be by communication and to that end, Clearwater has a dedicated closed Facebook group with company and people news included.

“Everyone is equally important in our mission,” he said. “Everyone should be on first name terms. If I call, everyone knows me. And if they like your style, they will stay.” He also stressed that those who don’t engage in the philosophy should not be held on to, as you cannot match with everybody.

Great teams make great performances. “Make your team great – so engage,” he said.

Being a third party shipmanagement company, he claimed that Clearwater was open, transparent and 100% engaged with the owners.

Clearwater works an organisational flatness culture, where everyone is tasked with doing the best they can. Being a smaller company, we are lean, adapt easily and are agile in creating solutions that do not break the bank and serve the target.

“We hire the best people who will buy into our culture, then just all that energy and commitment is directed towards the shipowner’s mission. That is a very rewarding process to be part of,” he concluded.

Maersk training

Capt Tonny Moeller of Maersk Training addressed how to combine human and technical factors in training.

Basically, he said that the Maersk Training centres use simulation to create a realistic environment for people to optimise their performance through human factors. In addition, the training helps people understand the need for behavioural change.

“We help people get to where they want to go,” he said, also commenting that he believed in assessments.
Tests will show if a person wants to change and needs to change. It helps a person to understand who he or she is and what that person’s skills are.

He described ‘the forever learning’ concept as getting shipping companies committed to better training by adaptive learning and virtual reality.

There were three key elements of trainees assessed -

Knowledge- Does the person have the technical knowledge coming from using instruments, tools, and procedures, which are used during a specific operation?

Skills/Abilitiy (competence)- Does the person have cognitive skills to oversee the information coming from the instruments and the ability to use it in an operational context?

Behaviour attitude - Does the person have the behaviour pattern to follow the correct procedures or can he/she be influenced by stress, fatigue or other issues?

Having done something many times, does a person just do it again? They need to be ready to adjust to circumstances. “They can’t just read procedures all of the time,” he said.

The training usually starts with a test, an interview with a psychologist and then simulation tests to find a weak point.

Non-technical skills used include situational awareness, team work, leadership, communications, performance shaping factors and decision making skills.

Maersk Training offers a four day bridge team enhancement programme which consists of various tests, both technical and human behavioural factor, where the use of psychometric tools, interviews and self-assessment are used to assess the candidate against a predefined profile.

The team competency profile will be measured against the non-technical skills listed above.

As for the technical assessment, this will be carried out by the use of simulators and theoretical tests, such as knowledge of COLREGS, radar and ECDIS.

A personal development plan will then be drawn up based on extensive feedback taking into account what the trainee would like to learn and improve his or her performance. He or she can take the development plan and regularly refer to it throughout their career.

Refresher training is also held every three years, as there is a danger of people acting exactly as they did before.
Maersk has a ‘the forever learning’ concept, which is is aimed at getting shipping companies committed to better training by adaptive learning through e-learning and virtual reality.

There are some 200 questions, which can be repeated for example every 12 months. He gave an example of week 1-10 containing 40 questions, while week 11-20 will consist of 40 questions plus three and so on for 50 weeks.

Today around 60% of Maersk Training’s operation is with companies outside the AP Moller-Maersk group and different programmes are put together depending on those companies needs.

Moeller said that he didn’t see differences in the companies themselves but gave an example of different Masters who will communicate in different ways, and who could benefit from bridge team training.

He said simulator training is a powerful tool, allowing the trainee to physically see what is wrong with his or her performance and become aware of mistakes. “There is a structure around it,” he said.


Daniel Duniec, Head Training & Crew Development at Bremen-based Harren and Partner Group (HP) explained the company’s development of a Competence Management System (CMS) and how it directly links to people’s performance.

Competence does lead to certification but just as important are a person’s skills, attitude, knowledge and experience, as the issuing of a certificate to a seafarer doesn’t mean he or she is competent.

It is the ability to do a job efficiently and to a high standard, he said and acknowledged there was a gap between certification and the actual skill shown. There are a lot of questions, which should be addressed, such as are you sure the crew is competent and how do they undertake a particular task?

He found that there was no structure behind monitoring performance. A seafarers career in most cases is based on ‘pure chance’ rather than a formal plan. With no structure, a seafarer on board learning by doing is usually left without any control.

Gaps will widen if the fast track method of recruitment and promotion is implemented, especially if a company expands its fleet quickly.

As for training, there are many different  methods used from shipboard, CBT, in-house and external training establishments. He thought that the most important was ‘on-the-job’ training.

The CMS concept was first introduced three years ago and is still under development. One of the questions was - how to ensure that partners share the same procedures ashore, enabling a follow up with an individual, plus the use of the shore-based competency system, split into critical and non-critical data. Duniec said that follow up was by far the most essential element. A commitment at all levels was also extremely important.

HP aims to split the manning activities, and the training functions to help ensure a crew member is taken on board only when he or she is ready.

CMS training takes in management and crew performance development, and compliance and statutory issues. The key operational parameters of a correct CMS set up will include seafarers briefings, career reviews, monitoring of low and top performers, setting expectations, follow up feedback, etc.

Essentially, CMS is a crew evaluation system, Duniec explained. The information is contained in a database and updated and if a crew member’s entry is green, then he or she is ready for promotion.

By sharing the information, he said the company was moving towards a more open system, away from the more traditional confidential style of assessment used in the past.

As for the manning agents’ input, briefings and de-briefings were essential, he said, so these should be included in the database.

CMS goal is to continuously track a seafarer’s progress from cadet up to Master with procedures in place for promotions, evaluations, feedback, etc.        






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