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Many of us have a gut feeling that work at sea runs more smoothly when crew members know each other well and are familiar with their vessel. But objectively, how much difference does it make to bring the same team of senior officers back to a particular ship for more than one voyage? Solent University researchers now have the answer, as ANDREW LININGTON heard at the IMO Effective Crew conference in February 2019…
Shipping companies could reap significant benefits by using 'back to-back' rotations for masters and senior officers, a new research project has shown.
Preliminary findings from the three-year Effective Crew study carried out at Solent University show that the use of 'stable' teams – in which the top four ranks return to the same vessel for more than one voyage – can boost safety,efficiency, morale and motivation. Initial results from the project – which was sponsored by Lloyd's Register Foundation and the TK Foundation, and is due to be completed at the end of March – were presented to a one-day conference at the International Maritime Organization in February 2019.
Project leader Dr Kate Pike told the meeting that the study had been established to examine and understand the benefits and challenges of running a stable crewing strategy for the master, chief engineer, chief officer and second engineer, as opposed to a 'fluid' approach using short-term contracts or constantly changing crew complements.
She said there had been very little recent research into the crewing practices used in shipping, even though labour costs amount to around half the operational budget for most vessels – and studies in other industries such as aviation, professional sports and healthcare had demonstrated the value of the 'stable' model.
'There are many different types of crewing strategies in the shipping industry,' Dr Pike pointed out. 'There are huge complexities and one size doesn't fit all, as every shipping company is unique. However, we have been able to show that in certain situations "stable" is incredibly beneficial.'
The research team based their findings on questionnaires and interviews with a wide range of industry stakeholders – including ship owners, managers, crewing agencies, insurers and seafarers – and also drew from case studies involving one large shipping company and an energy major.
The study examined crewing arrangements on a variety of ship types, with the focus on bulk carriers, containerships, tankers and car carriers.