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The shipping industry is global, with ships transporting goods and people all over the world. That said, having a well-managed crew is mandatory to ensure that vessels operate safely and efficiently. Ship crew management refers to the process of recruiting, deploying, training and supporting a ship’s crew. Although a difficult and complex task, proper management is crucial for the ship and its crew’s safety.

The shipping industry faces many challenges, including a lack of qualified seafarers, increased regulations and the need to reduce emissions. Ship owners and managers will need to invest in effective crew management practices to meet these challenges. In this blog post, we discuss the significance of maritime crew management, including its main challenges and how to overcome them.


Marine Crew Management: Why Is It Important?

In the shipping industry, crew management refers to the comprehensive process of recruiting, training, scheduling and supervising the crew members who work on ships. This includes not only the officers and seafarers navigating and managing the vessel but also support personnel such as cooks, engineers and maintenance workers. Crew management is critical for the smooth and safe operation of maritime vessels, as evidenced by the following statistics and key factors:

1. Safety Concerns While Sailing

Safety is of the utmost importance, both for ships and their cargo, as well as for crew members’ lives. According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), human error is responsible for 75% to 96% of marine accidents. As evident, human error is a complicated issue, with no single solution for reducing it in marine accidents. However, proper ship crew management, including effective training and fatigue management can have a significant impact.

Effective training can help ensure that crew members have the skills and knowledge they need to do their jobs safely and efficiently. This includes instruction in maritime safety, navigation and emergency response. Training should be further tailored to the crew’s specific needs and the type of vessel on which they are working.

Fatigue management is also necessary for lowering human error. Fatigue can impair decision-making, judgment and reaction time. Crew members should be provided with adequate rest and breaks, as well as training on the signs and symptoms of fatigue. Lastly, these programs should also include measures to address the underlying causes of fatigue, i.e., long working hours, poor sleep quality and stress.

2. Compliance with National and International Regulations

The maritime industry is subject to a plethora of international and national regulations designed to ensure the safety and security of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment, and the prevention of maritime fraud. Some key regulations that crew managers must be aware of are as follows:

  • International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW): This convention establishes the minimum training and certification requirements for seafarers. All crew members must have the necessary STCW certificates for their roles on the ship.
  • Maritime Labour Convention (MLC): This convention establishes minimum standards for working conditions and seafarer rights, covering aspects like wages, working hours, vacation, and medical care.
  • International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code: This code governs the transportation of dangerous goods by sea. Crew members who handle dangerous goods must be trained and certified in accordance with the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code.
  • International Safety Management Code (ISM): This code requires all shipping companies to implement a safety management system to ensure the safe operation of their ships. Crew managers play an important role in implementing and upholding the ISM Code on their ships.Apart from these international conventions, the maritime industry is subject to many national regulations. That said, crew managers must be familiar with the laws that govern the countries in which their ships operate, as regulation noncompliance can have serious consequences for shipping companies and crew members.
3. Operational Effectiveness

The crew is the heart of ship operations because they take care of every aspect of running the ship, from navigation and maintenance to cargo handling and safety. Trained and motivated crew members can boost a vessel’s efficiency through:

  • Reduced fuel consumption: They know how to operate the ship’s machinery and systems as efficiently as possible. The shipowner can save a lot of money due to the substantially lower fuel consumption, this way.
  • Lower operational costs: They’re less likely to make mistakes, which can lead to costly repairs or even accidents. Furthermore, they are more likely to go the extra mile to keep the ship running smoothly, which can help reduce maintenance costs.
  • Faster turnaround times in ports: Trained crew members can quickly and efficiently load and unload cargo, reducing the time the ship spends in port. This way, the shipowner can save money, as it ensures the ship arrives on schedule.To read about 5 CRM benefits for expanding your marine business, click here.
4. Seafarer Welfare

Seafarers contribute significantly to the global economy by transporting goods and people around the world. However, their work can be difficult and demanding, with long hours, isolation and difficult working conditions. This can have a significant impact on their mental and physical health. Proper management is critical to addressing these challenges and improving crew welfare, including:

  • Adequate rest periods: To function safely and effectively, seafarers require adequate rest. However, they are frequently required to work long hours, particularly during emergencies or when on a tight schedule. Employers must ensure that seafarers have adequate rest and recovery time during and between voyages. This includes allowing enough time for sleep, eating nutritious meals and exercising.
  • Mental health support: Seafarers are more likely to develop mental health issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The reasons are many – isolation and stress of seafaring, the possibility of accidents and injuries, and the difficulty in maintaining relationships with family and friends, to name a few. Thus, employers should provide seafarers with access to mental health care both on board and ashore.
  • Communication with family members: Seafarers can spend months away from home, which can be stressful for both the seafarer and their family members. That said, ship managers should make it easy for seafarers to communicate with their loved ones by providing affordable and reliable communication services. For example, giving seafarers free or discounted Wi-Fi access or allowing them to use the ship’s satellite phone to make personal calls could go a long way in terms of crew welfare. 
5. Environmental Impact of Ship Crew Management

Thereafter, properly trained crew members are more likely to operate vessels efficiently, leading to lower fuel consumption and emissions. When crew members are trained in fuel-efficient navigation and operations, they can make small adjustments that eventually lead to significant fuel savings.Well-trained crew members quickly respond to environmental emergencies and prevent accidents and spills, which usually have a devastating impact on marine ecosystems. Crew members trained in oil spill response, for example, can contain and clean up spills quickly and effectively, minimizing environmental damage. Lastly, a well-managed crew is usually involved in environmental protection activities, because they are valued and respected by their employer and understand the significance of their role in the process.

6. Crew Retention During Tough Times

High turnover rates can be costly for shipping companies in various ways. To begin with, recruiting and training new officers is costly. Second, experienced officers outperform new officers in terms of productivity and efficiency. Third, high turnover can cause a loss of morale and workplace disruption.The 2015 BIMCO/ICS report states that 10% of all officers leave their jobs each year on average, which is alarming because qualified officers can be difficult to recruit and retain.  Shipping companies can take many steps to reduce officer turnover rates, starting by providing competitive wages and benefits. Officers work long hours in difficult conditions, so they must be fairly compensated.Another important consideration is career development opportunities. Officers want to believe they are progressing in their careers and have opportunities to learn and grow. Shipping companies can provide training and development programs to help them advance in their careers. In conclusion, ship managers can foster a positive work environment by providing good working conditions and cultivating a culture of collaboration and support.To learn about the top 4 ways to retain seasonal employees in your marine business, read this.

7. Economic Impact of Ship Crew Management

The maritime industry is critical to the global economy because it transports the vast majority of goods worldwide. For shipping large amounts of goods, maritime transport is more efficient and cost-effective than other modes of transportation, such as air and rail. Effective crew management is critical for keeping shipping operations affordable and competitive. A well-managed crew is more efficient, productive and less likely to make mistakes, leading to significant savings on fuel, maintenance and other costs. Here’s how:

  • Reduced maintenance costs: A well-maintained vessel is less likely to break down, which helps save costs significantly. A well-managed crew maintains the vessel properly and identifies and reports potential problems early on.
  • Less expensive insurance: Insurance premiums are lower for shipping companies with a good safety record. Effective crew management can help improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents.


Summing It Up

In conclusion, managing the ship’s crew is an essential component of the maritime sector. Ship crew managers can improve safety, efficiency and profitability by ensuring qualified and experienced crews are working onboard.


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