Human beings by nature will always make mistakes, so it goes that there will always be accidents. The industry has tried to manage that through competence, with these elements of competence generally being hard and soft skills. But is competence enough?

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We usually focus on competence: striving to recruit competent people and have competent crew, but I think that it is the performance that we need to look at for our people onboard. But is this the same as competence? Competence does not guarantee performance because there are a lot of personal and environmental factors affecting it.

Therefore, I do encourage our industry to focus more on soft skills, soft skills such as situational awareness, decision-making, communication, teamwork, leadership, personal resource, managing stress, and coping with fatigue. These can be the skills that we use to bring forth an industrial revolution — the fourth industrial revolution. As long as humans are involved, this will always be paramount. Technical skills will change, computers, automation, artificial intelligence. We have to adapt.

We’ll ultimately have resilient crew- resilient crew who can adapt well in the face of adversities, tragedy, and stress. Admittedly, assessing and training soft skills are very difficult. How can you assess soft skills? How can you train soft skills?

In our company, we monitor the operation of our principals, so we started office panel interviews in order to simulate or put crew under stress to see how they react, and how they answer. They are also assessed on board because that’s where you can see how they perform under stress- in the actual location and work area while they are doing their jobs. In addition, we need to have feedback in order to know how to train them later or to make them at least aware. The first step is to make them aware of what their soft skills are, presently. Then at MANSHIP, we also put up a training center now in order to have a simulator.

This is the best way to assess soft skills: inject them into stressful situations in order for them to manage and for us to observe how they react, how they handle it, and then debrief them, make them aware of their soft skills- how they handled the situation, how they reacted, how they manifested it through their behaviors, because if they are aware and they are willing to change, that will be the start of improving soft skills.

Humans will always commit mistakes, there will be accidents. Human behavior is the source of virtually all such loss. But remember: it is also the reason why such loss is not greater.

The above article is an edited version of Capt. Bartilad’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Manila Forum.

You can view his video presentation bellow

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.


Capt. Albert E. Bartilad, Vice President and COO of Manila Shipmanagement & Manning, Inc., Vice President and CTO of Manship Maritime Training Center, Inc.

A seafarer for twenty-six years, Capt. Bartilad sailed onboard crude oil carriers (ULCCs to panamaxes), oil/chemical tankers, and dry bulk cargo vessels. After years of serving as a master, he disembarked to join the senior management of Manila Shipmanagement & Manning, Inc. (“MANSHIP”) as its Vice President and Chief Operating Officer in 2008. Eight years later, Capt. Bartilad was appointed as the Vice President and Chief Training Officer of Manship Martime Training Center, Inc. (“MMTC”) where he now applies his years of sailing wisdom and expertise towards training the next generation of seafarers. Under his leadership, the MMTC was certified by the American Bureau of Shipping to be compliant with ISO 9001:2015 standards for the “Provision of Course Development, Conduct of Training, Assessment, and Support Services for Seafaring and Maritime Business Related Industry”.

He is an Associate Fellow of The Nautical Institute, an international organization of maritime professionals based in the United Kingdom. Capt. Bartilad has a remarkable array of certifications that attest to his competence including accreditations as instructor, assessor, simulator trainer & assessor and supervisor. He is also an accredited Pre-departure Orientation Seminar trainer, conducting the seminar for seafarers hired by clients of MANSHIP.

With both his experience and accomplishments, Capt. Bartilad aims to empower Filipino seafarers to not only perform well onboard but to inspire others to do the same.