It’s because they constantly get emails marked "URGENT!!". Crew management as we know it is not simple. Long email chains, last minutes changes, complicated excel spreadsheets, and the list goes on. Our data shows that an average contract consumes 525 minutes of the shipping company's onshore personnel.
Overusing e-mail and other inadequate crewing tools and processes stresses them to their limits. In personnel, that manifests as burnout, a state of permanent exhaustion and apathy. Here’s how you can recognize and address inadequate crewing tools and processes.
Is your system infrastructure helping you?
Many companies rely on traditional ERPs, that help them digitize their data and store it in a passive data warehouse. The main benefit of these systems is that multiple departments in the same shipping company can have access to the same type of data - eg chartering and operations review the same seafarer data as the crew department does. But is this system infrastructure really helping a crew department solve its problems.
Crew departments collaborate with several actors, like manning agents, port agents, ticketing agents, seafarers onboard and seafarers in their pool. The urgency in communications is usually caused when 1 of these actors has access to information that may impact others. For example, when a seafarer tests positive for COVID-19 or when a vessel’s ETA changes, several actors need to be urgently informed to take action. As crewing grows increasingly complex, more shipping companies identity the need of using system infrastructure beyond their main ERP, that helps them communicate with crewing actors to get the job done.
Are you tracking the right metrics?
While all urgent cases can’t be avoided, there are some that can be handled proactively. The most successful shipping companies have the ability to track several metrics that can “predict” failure. Companies use systems to flag simple things, like when seafarer documents expire, or more advanced elements, like what is the probability of a seafarer to churn pre-embarkation. When companies track these metrics, they have the ability to build backup plans they can use on a rainy day.
Burnout prevention and stress reduction go hand in hand as metrics-based workflow optimizations. If you’re not getting metrics, you have no insight into the inner workings of any tool or process. If you are, you can make benchmarks and discover unhealthy work patterns that lead to emergencies. Setting up a system and a process to collect & update seafarer documents, to line-up seafarers per vessel and to communicate with all actors involved in a crew change are usually a good starting point to reduce emergencies.
These two areas are plagued with inefficiencies, so start by gathering metrics related to:
Keeping the relationships upright
Seafarers feel the stress as well but may be unable to indicate its source. Manning agencies play a role in that by keeping them away from the shipping company. While our metrics show that engagement is indeed built the most upon embarkation, there are simple ways to reduce friction and maximize engagement with seafarers overal, such as:
Being attentive during interviews, asking questions beyond what will be required from them while onboard
Sharing transparent feedback received from several sources (ie colleagues onboard, manning agents, headquarters, superintendents) in a constructive and structured manner
Engaging with seafarers beyond typical contract matters and helping them prepare for their next assignment on time
Very few shipping companies manage to build deep relationships with their seafarers. This level of engagement is what usually reduces crewing urgencies significantly for leading shipmanagers
We at Seafair have worked with several leading shipping companies that have identified their limitations and have benefited from using systems that help alleviate their urgencies. Seafair offers a data-driven crewing process that minimizes stress, prevents burnout, promotes work-life balance and builds engagements. We do that by having fewer complexities and breaking points. The Seafair platform provides:
A one-stop-shop for crewing
An environment full of processes built to enable humans
A designated account manager and operator for every step of the crew change process
Crew managers will always carry the weight of attracting, recruiting and developing seafarers in a timely manner. By identifying the inefficiencies in their day-to-day and utilising technology to tackle them, they will be able to minimise the effect of uncertainties and complexities that come with it.