Although, the 1978 STCW Convention and Code, as amended, has set the international benchmark for the training and education of seafarers, it seems that we still have a long way to go since the trend of accidents is still on the rise and human element still responsible for most accidents and incidents on board ships.

Safety research, over the last century, has been consistent in pointing out that human error is the primal contributing factor to the majority of casualties in the maritime industry. From the accident of the Titanic to that of the Costa Concordia, seafarers are apt to behave during critical situations with the same “wrong” mental model.

“While compliance with its standards is essential for serving on board ships, the skills and competence of seafarers, and indeed, the human element ashore, can only be adequately underpinned, updated and maintained through effective maritime education and training”, said the IMO Secretary General during the 112th Council meeting.

It is of common understanding that effective standards of training are the foundation of a safe and secure shipping industry, which needs to preserve the quality, practical skills and competence of qualified human resources, to ensure its sustainability.

Since its inception, ISM has been trying to encourage and build the reporting of incidents and near misses through a NO blame or JUST culture to provide the necessary input of what is needed and what goes wrong in our daily operations, so as to ensure an effective training.  Without this input from the industry, it is difficult to be structured and specific so as to be able to accommodate the needs trainees/companies need to keep up with. 

On the other hand, although the introduction of technology in shipping aims at improving a ship’s competitiveness and the probability of occurrence of unwanted incidents, seafarers seem not to follow the same rhythm of evolution, due to human limitations.

Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) is a modern answer to this challenge for the maritime industry. BBS is an evolving process that uses positive reinforcement to change unsafe individual behaviour and improve safety performance, as part of a positive safety culture.

It is α systematic process to identify, measure and eventually change seafarers’ at-risk behaviours towards a safe direction.  This approach examines the motivation underlying behaviours and emphasizes the ones that contribute towards an accident free environment. The purpose is to find the root causes of accidents and the related behaviours.  BBS is about creating a holistic safety system that reflects an ongoing and proactive approach to safety. The introduction of a BBS strategy will strongly help a shipping company to ensure that its safety approach is on the right track, rather than being reactive on things that go wrong.

Safety is a continous fight with human nature; BBS will decisively help an organization fight this nature and at the same time build a safety culture.

To that end, the STCW Manila amendments, introduced soft skills into the training agenda of shipping companies.  With crew nationalities varying a lot within one ship’s crew, communication skills become ever more important in order to handle this new challenge. Different languages, religions, customs, dietary habits and even moral principles need to be recognized and addressed in order for safety to prevail onboard.  Teamwork, both on deck and engine room as well as leadership qualities, mainly those of the Captain, also contribute to the smooth safe operation of the vessel.  And it is now accepted that these skills can be enhanced or even acquired through coaching/training.

At the end of the day, training remains the most efficient way of providing competent and vigilant seafarers.


By Dr. Marina Papaioannou, Maritime Academy Hellas, DNV GL - Maritime


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.


About Marina Papaioannou, Maritime Academy Hellas, DNV GL - Maritime

Dr. Marina Papaioannou, Training Manager, DNV GL She graduated from the University of Patras, Department of Geology in 1989 and received a PhD in Geophysics in 2002. She has participated in various scientific projects related to archaeological geophysics, which was also the specific topic of her Thesis titled “The application of geophysics in the investigation of underground structures in urban environment”. She worked as a free-launch geologist/geophysicist until 2000, undertaking a major part of the geophysical investigations for the construction of the Metro of Athens, participating in various NATO SFS Programs, as well as numerous archaeological /geophysical projects and civil construction works. In 2000, she started her career in the maritime business with her employment at the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association – HELMEPA. Within her duties was to follow the works of the Committees for the Protection of the Marine Environment (MEPC) and Maritime Safety (MSC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London, translation and simplification of laws and regulations relevant to the protection of the marine environment and oil pollution prevention and response and teaching at seminars with relevant subjects. In 2008 she started her employment with Germanischer Lloyd Academy and she has been GL Academy Area Manager for Southern Europe, responsible for the training activities of GL for Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Spain, Portugal. Since 1st January 2014, she is managing the training business under the new merged organization – DNV GL’s Maritime Academy Hellas, for which she is also a trainer. She has a significant presence in national and international conferences/symposiums as a speaker, with numerous publications. In April 2014, she was elected Secretary General of WISTA Hellas.