Getting owners to understand the merits of a happy crew

How do managers discuss the importance of crew welfare with their customers?

Crew welfare has come to the fore during the pandemic, perhaps more than it ever has. Are shipowners now in a position to go further in this process with their customers, the shipowners, to ensure a significant and lasting improvement in life on board?

Sachit Sahoonja, CEO and managing partner of Su-Nav, admits this is a big hurdle, as the baseline set for seafarers’ welfare by statutory authorities is the bare minimum.

As examples, Sahoonja points out that internet on board is still not mandatory, family transportation is at the company’s discretion, and there are no rules for direct flights to destinations. .

A happy crew is the best crew

“It may sound like a cliché, but a happy crew is the best crew,” says Kishore Rajvanshy, managing director of Fleet Management. “We’ve seen it time and time again – high performance, strong engagement and loyalty come from feeling respected and valued.”

The trick then is to make sure that the managers convey this message to the owners.

“Leading ship managers need to set their own standards for seafarer welfare and then engage with their shipowner clients to achieve them,” says Ian Beveridge, CEO of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.

It is up to shipowners to lead the way, work together and force change for the better

Kuba Szymanski, general secretary of InterManager, the association representing third-party managers, says industry best practices are pursued and promoted to clients of InterManager members.

“Some owners are easier than others but, perhaps due to the fairly good level of income that owners have enjoyed over the past couple of years and difficulties in the seafarer employment pool due to Covid -19, owners seem to be a bit more willing to listen to our suggestions and feedback,” says Szymanski.

Educate all kinds of owners

Another problem that managers face in trying to impress upon customers the importance of crew welfare is the ever-changing nature of shipowners – they tend to come from all walks of life these days.

“The irony of everyone becoming a shipowner often pinches managers,” says Sanjeev Verma, managing director of Landbridge Ship Management. “Normally,” he says, “there is little or no knowledge of how the ship works for financial investors turned shipowners, but the bottom line is the numbers.”

Educating these shipowners about crew welfare isn’t easy, but it’s critical to address the issue when managers sit down to discuss annual budgets, Verma says.

It’s a point echoed by Sean McCormack, director of ship management at Northern Marine, who argues that the trick is to clearly show owners the dollars and cents saved by happy at-sea staff.

“By truly understanding the business challenges shipowners face today and showing where onboard productivity – driven by a sustainable working environment – can overcome these challenges, that’s what we need to do as managers” , believes McCormack.

A big part of the problem lies in how shipping companies are organized – reporting functions go to the wrong place, says Carl Martin Faannessen, CEO of Manila-based crew specialist Noatun Maritime.

Most companies have crews that report to a technical function rather than an HR function.

Treat them well, help them make the right choices and your ship will run well

“We have yet to see a large land-based organization where HR reports to production rather than the CEO. But in our industry, it’s almost the norm,” observes Faannessen.

“Our role as managers,” says Faannessen, “is to continue to drive home this point: the crew is the only thing that can convert expensive shaped steel into a ship. make the right choices and your ship will perform well. Simple, difficult and true.

A home away from home

“People are at the heart of what we do. Covid has reinforced this vision where the importance of our people on board our ships and within our offices has been underscored like never before,” says Mark O’Neil, President of Columbia Shipmanagement.

“Inspirational training and lifelong learning, fair and reasonable compensation and benefits, fresh and healthy food and catering, medical and mental health advice available, free and unlimited wifi communication with families and friends, sophisticated human resources and career planning. These are basic employment rights that we should all expect on board or ashore,” says O’Neil, adding: “It is up to shipowners to lead the way, to work together and force change for the better.

Rajiv Singhal, Managing Director of MTM Ship Management, believes that it is essential to create good living conditions on board, creating a home away from home, whether through good home entertainment, decent food or the wifi available.

Singapore-based Thome Group works with shipowners to support its crew welfare initiatives. Some of them encourage sailors to sleep and rest eight hours and exercise on board. There is also regular crew health monitoring, insurance cover for the crew and their dependents and free Wi-Fi on board.

Verma from Landbridge says seafarers still need to be educated about their rights and he would like to see them get better advice on financial matters and retirement planning. Similarly, medical benefits should be available to them and their families when working on board.

Gen Z demands

If you get crew welfare wrong today, managers will pay the consequences for many years to come, warns Arvind Mohan, managing director of Viridian Maritime.

“In 15 to 20 years, imagine Gen Z being much more digitally savvy, and their expectations will be different than previous generations of sailors. For them, wellness might mean something different than what is currently envisioned and perhaps with a simpler but unique view of work-life balance,” predicts Mohan.

Managers will need to get owners to change what wellness really means, he says. It will no longer just be about providing internet connectivity or having people turn on and off at the right time. It’s going to be more about transforming training needs, moving from hands-on training to technology-based automation requirements, because it’s going to be these new seafarers who will eventually come ashore to manage these new types of vessels.

Emphasis will need to be placed on interpersonal skills on equal footing with technical skills, as the frequency of ship-to-shore communications and vice-versa increases, according to Mohan.

Also, as the number of seafarers on board decreases further, social interaction will decrease and, therefore, means of mental and social support mechanisms will need to be discussed and assessed, Mohan believes.

“As managers, we focus on empowering our seafarers to develop their potential as well as their mentoring abilities. These are just some of the discussions we are openly discussing with owners to work towards a coordinated and comprehensive plan that looks to the future,” Mohan concludes.

This is one of the articles from Splash’s Shipmanagement Market Report, a 72-page magazine published this month. Splash readers can access the full magazine for free by click here.

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