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Healthy eating leads to a motivated crew


Seafarer catering challenges were highlighted by Christian Ioannou, managing director of catering training provider Marine Catering Training Consultancy (MCTC) at Tanker Operator’s October Hamburg conference.


He claimed that shipmanagers are wasting money on unnecessary costs in dismissals and food wastage in their ships’ galleys. Limassol-based MCTC trains catering crews from all over the world in all types of cuisine, through on board distance CBT and e-learning, plus onshore programmes at its training establishment in Makati, Phillippines. Another catering training centre is due to open in India next year.

Food is one of the biggest motivating factors for seafarers but there is still an industry-wide lack of nutritional knowledge within galley staff. This leads to owners/managers incurring further expenses through food waste, staff dismissals of under-qualified catering employees and bad health among crew members, Ioannou said.

Through employing trained and skilled catering crew members, managers could reduce their galley expenses dramatically by reducing food waste and performance dismissals, effective menu planning and good time management, he explained.

He also highlighted MCTC’s new galley management system (GMS) that the company is developing. The software will be available to the cooks on board to assist them in the day-to-day running of a galley. Ioannou explained how cost savings could be made while at the same time improving the quality of the food served. For example, he said that monitoring the food served on board would lead to increased hygiene, crew moral, crew retention and reduce the food-related diseases, thus cutting P&I costs.

Dismissals for non-performing crew also added to the costs by way of manning agency fees and an increase in P&I cases.He claimed that around 20% of the food on board is currently wasted and taking the case of a 25- vessel fleet and working on $8.50 per seafarer, the food bill would come to $1.6 mill per year. Wastage could put more than $500,000 on this figure arriving at a food bill of $2.1 mill per year.

Ioannou outlined seven ways of optimising food service on board ensuring a return on investment (ROI).

  1. Reducing food waste.
  2. Ensuring effective food ordering and menu planning.
  3. Effective use of available provisions.
  4. Minimising overtime schedules.
  5. Minimising ready made convenient food and cooking from scratch.
  6. Reducing performance dismissals.
  7. Reducing P&I cases.

In reducing food waste, the challenges were lack of food handling and processing, de­frosting methods, which sometimes destroys the food, trimming the cooking losses and over calculation of the food needed. He saw the solution in a catering competency development programme, plus proper training.

Part of the cooks’ education is ensuring effective ordering and menu planning.Ioannou also outlined an unnecessarily expanded provisions list, which can sometimes run to 1,200 items and which the cooks have little or no knowledge of. “Knowing the product and what should be used - a lack of weekly menus and nobody following this,” he warned. “The solution is a development programme with weekly menus being developed and a GMS put in place.


Wrong provisions

The wrong provisions are often used on board for various dishes. There should be a provision optimisation plan put in place, for example, leftovers can be used to create different menus for different cultures often seen on board ship. To counter this, he said that MCTC offers distance coaching - support based on a vessel’s current inventory - which can be developed on a weekly basis to coincide with the weekly menu development.

As mentioned, overtime also comes in play as as cook can be working for between 10-12 hours per day from morning coffee to evening desert for around 10 months. In this scenario, schedules should be developed to enable the cooks to implement time management. A lack of time management leads to increased overtime payments, Ioannou warned. He suggested a daily working schedule be introduced using the GMS plan to develop a time management system on board.

As for reducing performance dismissals and ensuring high retention rates, proper assessments should be made of a cook before he or she embarks to ensure there is no lack of basic knowledge, which could lead to low seafarer retention rates in a company, as the food on board is often a very important factor for a seafarer. One of the answers is to sit down with the cooks and plan - motivation and interaction through personal coaching - plus giving briefings, offering distance coaching and consultancy.

As for minimising ready made food, it is important to budget for cooking from scratch, especially for international recipes, to keep costs down. Excessive ordering of ready convenient foods leads to unhealthy items containing a high level of preservatives.

There is a lack of awareness on healthy eating habits and on the use of unhealthy cooking methods, he stressed. To counteract this, correct cooking methods should be used through the development programme, which includes weekly menu planning, a food safety and nutritional management course with a practical assessment day on board and culinary educational newsletters provided.

Thus far, MCTC has worked with 1,000 people on some 350 vessels and in 2015-2016 started working with John T Essberger on a project.

Ioannou was joined at the conference by Bjorn Borbe, Essberger’s senior crewing manager who explained that the company manages 30 vessels, including 22 small chemical tankers operating in short sea trades.

He said that before engaging with MCTC, there was a problem in keeping within budgets. The cooks went away for a week’s training but came back and soon got back into their old bad habits. Borbe said he was looking for a sustainable solution for both the Masters and Chief Cooks.

Essberger embarked on a catering competency development programme with MCTC. Included were specialised onshore upgrading courses - how to effectively run a small galley when a voyage lasts for around 36 hours with the vessels constantly loading and discharging.

“It was not so easy, as we needed to face the problems from a different angle,” he explained. “Masters cannot monitor cooks.”

Some of the officers in Essberger’s fleet are Dutch, so a high standard of food was expected, while some of the cooks were formerly deck cadets who had been transferred to the galley to become messmen, eventually being promoted to Chief Cook.

Borbe said that the company found that around 20% rejected this approach but those who became involved benefited from a meeting with MCTC Manila’s representatives when arriving and before leaving to join a ship.

“We have to invest in a cadet, or a junior officer without a health problem,” he explained.

Extensive on board visits were made to the ships and a career development pattern developed together with galley staff planning. Assistance was given in galley staff selection, target settings and follow ups with specialised briefings and debriefings, instilling competence with assessments.


Families involved

Family workshops were also held for the seafarers to engender family health awareness, which is something that Ioannou said he was keen on.

Borbe said that Essberger’s long term initiative was to have high crew retention rates, improve crew welfare and catering standards together with a competitive provision rate cost structure.

He said that there was a strong correlation between what a person eats and how he or she feels. “Suicide is one of the biggest problems for P&I clubs,” he stressed. Being employed on a tanker, means that a seafarer needs to be at a higher level, thus Essberger tries to ensure that they are healthy.

Although any return on investment (ROI) will be measured in better health, higher job satisfaction and a reduction in P&I cases, he said that in five to 10 years, the company will see the benefits of a higher seafarer retention rate with good welfare reputation.

Ioannou said that when seafarers move companies, food is often given as one reason for dissatisfaction. “They care. Ensure that they get the food they need,” he said.

Borbe concluded that with so many inspections now taking place, we need to keep high galley standards.

 

Digital platforms
Ioannou also recently claimed that technology advancements on board ships will lead to further training opportunities for seafarers this year.

He said that he believed ship operators must prioritise investing in the right tools to allow seafarers access to training while they are away at sea.

In 2018, MCTC will be launching new digital platforms to enable seafarers to manage their training online effectively.

Ioannou said: "These days there is a lot expected from the catering departments who are expected to now be experts on nutrition, as well as keeping to strict budgets and knowing how to cook a variety of healthy meals. They need to know how to cater for different cultures and tailor dishes for those crew members who may be suffering with health issues, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

“It is important that shipping operators realise the importance of investing in technology to enable continued training for the crew members. E-learning is a vital aspect of the training we provide and I see future advancements in technology supporting this.

“This year we will be launching new software to assist seafarers with their training and learning how to create wholesome meals for their crews. I would also like to see more crews sharing knowledge and best practices with each other through digital communications,” he concluded.     

 

TankerOperator

 

 

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