Building trust with your manning agent

Updated: Apr 28

Trust is a firm belief in the performance of someone or something. It underlies all high-quality long-term relationships, including the one you have with your manning agency. Here’s how can you build trust with your manning agency to ensure you are getting the best-performing seafarers.


The first step is testing the manning agency’s transparency, which is the quality of being readily apparent. Ask the manning agency one or more of the following questions:

  • How do you define high-quality seafarers?

  • How do you vet seafarers?

  • How do you recognize seafarers who attempt fraud?

  • Do you share seafarers from my pool with other shipping companies?

All manning agencies claim that they protect a shipping company’s pool. But the main question principals should be asking is: is there a way the manning agent can prove it? If there’s no structural answer, this probably means that a principal’s pool is not really protected. Data, stats in particular, indicate a verifiable track record, which is a huge plus for a manning agency. If no data is provided when you explicitly ask for it, assume the manning agency is lacking in that area.

Setting expectations

The second step is having clearly defined expectations to avoid disappointment. As a principal, it is important to communicate to your agent if you will treat them as:

  • Your main agency, which is expected to cover all your needs, or

  • As a supporting agency, which you use to fill gaps or get higher-quality profiles

An effective collaboration with an agency relies on a principal’s ability to convey their needs. While principals set a large set of criteria with agencies, many fail to communicate which criteria are more important than other ones. Are you optimizing for time, crew costs, or seafarer quality? Would you be willing to consider seafarers outside your typical age range, if they fulfill all your other criteria? Are you willing to optimize costs and promote a new seafarer hire? Or perhaps you are willing to wait a bit longer to find seafarers that fit all your criteria, to ensure you’re building a high quality pool? As your needs change, it’s important to communicate them to your manning agency - mention how flexible you are with the criteria at the tail end of both lists.

Performance comparison

Many principals tend to stick with the same manning agency for many years, despite not being happy with the quality of service they provide. As a matter of fact, principals get more familiar with their long term vendors and sometimes may start rationalizing or justifying decisions or outcomes they would find unacceptable in the past. This is why it’s essential to compare the performance of manning agencies. When you receive data in reply to your questions, take it back to step #1 and ask all manning agencies about their data in the same area. What share of proposed seafarers do you interview, and later accept? Is the agency sending you consistently high quality profiles?

Repeat this process with all manning agencies to indicate you know how they stand compared to the competition. Watch the reaction — that’s how the same agency will deal with your feedback. By comparing the performance of several manning agencies, you will create a benchmark. Discuss this benchmark with all manning agencies in turn; don’t consider it offensive or intrusive. The manning agent’s performance tends to improve when the agent is aware of being under intense scrutiny.


It’s only by building trust that the seafaring market can survive crises such as pandemics and wars. But, that doesn’t mean blind trust or faith. We at Seafair promote transparency, data-backed trust, and verifiable performance for all our principals. By adopting and promoting the notion of a public benchmark, we nudge each other to perform better. By treating each other fairly, we improve the long-term viability of maritime crewing.

We treat our clients without discrimination, providing them with unfettered access to our complete seafarer database. As we get feedback from our clients, we pore over our data to see how we can improve. Our quarterly reviews with clients, paired with our structured benchmarking methodology, help clients get a glimpse of what better crewing looks like.

This is why most of our clients trust us and expand their collaboration with us.

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