The Effective Crew Project : Solent University

Project objectives

  • Examine the impact on safety and efficiency of implementing stable or fluid crewing strategies within the Merchant Navy.
  • Provide new data in an area where the current information is primarily anecdotal.
  • Share best practice from other industries which apply stable and fluid teams.
  • Develop a best practice guide on crewing assignment for the shipping industry.
  • Develop recommendations for those in the shipping industry instrumental to crew assignment.
  • Produce high impact dissemination of the research findings.

The project will ultimately highlight the benefits and limitations of implementing either a fluid or a stable crewing strategy. Drawing on the research findings and best practice from other industries, recommendations will be made on the optimum implementation of these crewing strategies, for the merchant shipping industry.

Further information

The merchant shipping industry is constantly seeking to balance different elements of the crewing equation:

  • Safety – increasing evidence of the impact of the human element in safety.
  • Cost – crewing is commonly the largest element in vessel operating budget.
  • Efficiency – the drive to demonstrate increasing cost-effectiveness in a competitive marketplace.

One of the areas impacting on this equation is how crew are allocated to vessels and how long a senior team works together on the same vessel. Does maintaining a consistent senior team deliver benefits in safety, efficiency and cost?

In the merchant shipping industry there are companies operating a stable crewing strategy where the same senior officers (top four) operate on a back-to-back basis and return to the same vessel for several trips, with all four joining and leaving the vessel at the same time. Other companies operate a fluid system where senior officers are assigned to any appropriate vessel and will sail with different senior officers every trip.

Little literature exists regarding the benefits and challenges of these strategies within the shipping industry. Captain Kuba Szymanski, General Secretary of InterManager says:

We in the shipping industry are full of great examples, but majority of them are all anecdotal and what we are missing is good, hard scientific research which would form a basis for actions.

Evidence from other industries including healthcare, aviation and professional sports suggests the benefits of maintaining stable teams include: improved safety; building team identity; sharing skills; improved efficiency, motivation and morale. These could be of significant value to the shipping industry, particularly regarding safety performance and seafarers’ welfare.

InterManager Dispatch Magazine

An article was recently published in InterManager Dispatch magazine highlighting the importance of questioning crewing strategies.  Read it HERE.

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