Ships including yachts are busy places

They are alive with activity. Multiple points of interaction, multiple daily decisions, multiple machines, systems and operations, most of which require human intervention and / or supervision. Whilst some onboard systems are automated and AI continues to increase the list of activities which do not require human input, crews are busy, very busy.
Ships don’t maintain themselves either and huge amounts of time are spent cleaning, maintaining and checking that the automated systems designed to limit human input are indeed working! Paperwork still needs to be done, either on paper or electronically. The commercial aspect of any ship remains the responsibility of the Master and interacting with agents, shippers, charterers and ports still requires that human touch to ensure that professional relationships are maintained for the good of the vessel. It’s an onslaught of activity which eats away at available time.
Then of course we have to rest every now and again!

So what time is left?

So what time is left for ensuring that the crew continue to remain safe, proficient at dealing with non routine operations, develop their onboard careers through training and even what time is left for statutory drills and safety instruction?
The answer that most Masters will give is of course very little. The time that is available is limited meaning that any meaningful training and development is rushed. No time to reflect, learn or indeed absorb the crucial safety lessons that every crew member must know to stay safe.

Disappointingly I hear so many times students tell me the most training they got was at safety inductions which were so long ago that most of the information has faded from the mind. Drills are seen as inconveniences which intrude into down time (legitimately as well which is another debate!) and thus are not taken in the spirit at which they are intended. Drills should be paced team building exercises which develop mutual understanding of important actions that must be taken and equipment used when things are not going to plan! Rushing them, as well intentioned as the drill is, will contribute little to the readiness of crews to deal with emergencies. Painting the drill with the inconvenience brush will also serve to downgrade the importance and intent.

lifebuoy in the water with a person holding on

So what’s the answer?

Allow the ships routine to suffer? Leave jobs undone? Lay ships up instead of working them? Leave guests to their own devices? Let the paperwork pile up to mountainous levels? Of course not – the time equation doesn’t allow that imbalance. But balance must be sought somehow. Matching available time with effective use of that time is key. Yes we may have to find a couple more hours a week to apply to training and drills. But it’s not just about finding that time – it’s about utilising the time to best advantage. Engaging and not coercing crew to approach the session with a positive attitude. Supporting crews aspirations and motivating them to go beyond the ships routine and train for their future.

One way of achieving this is to bring in outside support. Experienced trainers with sufficient experience not just to train well but to engage with the crew. Someone that the crew to can look to to make the training and drill experience more positive. Giving them that extra knowledge above and beyond the normal minimum standard so that they are empowered to do well and progress their career. Self satisfaction in learning can only be achieved if the crew member feels that have actually leant, and further enhanced by showing them that their knowledge is better than the minimum required. Reassuring them that the Master and Owner have gone beyond what’s required. Showing their self worth, valuing their input and showing that the ship and industry as a whole cares about their future. Only be empowering crew members to reform and grow in a role will we be able to maintain the experience onboard which in turn will enhance the workplace atmosphere and show crew members that they have a future in shipping.
Rushing the most important part of their on board safety pathway will only have the opposite effect – alienating the workforce at a time when we need them to stay. Show you care, provide the quality training crew deserve and crew will in turn reward that with loyalty. Loyalty equals longevity in post which equals experience, which equals safer crew which equals a safer, and happier ship.

Here at Barry Sadler Maritime Training we can provide both onboard and remote support for training – not just on onboard safety matters but ongoing professional support with onboard career training and crew development.