The positive effects of stable crewing

12 March 2019

February’s IMO Effective Crew conference didn’t just hear from the Solent University researchers. There were also first-hand accounts from maritime employers about their experiences of stable crewing…

The Effective Crew conference heard from some leading shipping company managers who spoke of the gains that can be made from stable manning strategies.

MOL LNG Transport (Europe) managing director Andy Hill said his company has returned to stable crewing after a period of rapid fleet expansion had led to a more flexible approach.

With some of its ships now training on Arctic routes, significant investment is being made in training to meet the requirements of the Polar Code. Stability has improved accountability and has helped to develop greater levels of trust between crews and clients, Mr Hill noted. Back-to-back arrangements have given senior officers greater flexibility in their assignments and the ability to improve family and social life.

'We have seen increased levels of professional pride,' he added. 'Returning to the same ship has enabled pre-joining briefings to be optimised and officers are ready to start on arrival.'

While stable manning may not be so cheap, it has delivered improved recruitment and retention rates, improved record-keeping and improved SIRE inspection results, as well as savings on operational and maintenance costs.

We have seen increased levels of professional pride. Returning to the same ship has enabled pre-joining briefings to be optimised and officers are ready to start on arrival.

Zodiac Maritime crew personnel manager Rebecca Hughes said it was difficult to measure the effect of manning policies. But she said stability seems to have a positive effect on motivation and can reduce lost time and off-hire incidents.

Teekay Shipping managing director John Adams said companies need to develop crewing strategies that look ahead to the next 10 years. It's not easy, he admitted, but a good business model should treat officers as professionals and have the top four as part of the management team ashore. 'We should be talking about quality operations and togetherness is important – there should be no them and us.'

MSC Cruises vice-president Nico Corbijn said his company had 'stumbled across' stable crewing, but had extended the policy from senior officers to all ranks. 'It gives us the opportunity to project up to a year and a half ahead, and gives the crew the opportunity to plan their lives as well,' he added. 'To me, it is the way to do things. But the big problem is that we are building so many ships and need so many new people that stable manning is almost impossible.'

Foreland Shipping general manager Stuart Williams said the nature of operations in some trades means that certain companies will always need flexible manning, but stable crewing offers the opportunity for senior officers to take ownership and interest in the vessels.

'I am a big fan of back-to-back manning, but it does require a big shift in management style to make it work,' he added. 'We are quite top-down in the way we manage, and with management of fixed teams you need to go to a softer way.' Colin Payne, former Swire Pacific HR director, said stable crewing was crucial to building a positive and healthy onboard culture and to break down the 'silo mentality' between departments.

Main Image: Seafarers onboard an MOL LNG vessel celebrate the 15th anniversary of the ship’s first loading, the 158th loading and the carriage of over 21m cubic metres of LNG in that period