The complexity of the systems of a vessel requires a crew continuity and a stable crew team, with expertise on a specific vessel that will be able to overcome any operational challenges. BIMCO’s London Correspondent, Michael Grey, comments that ‘stable teams of senior officers can give improved performance through a greater sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability.’
Although in a common sense crew continuity has plenty of advantages, it also hides many challenges. According to Mr Grey, it takes a lot of time to familiarise with the equipment and systems, and also the complexity of trade or route.
On the one hand, changing crews often may lead to a non-understanding of the sense of ‘ownership’ and ‘pride in their vessel’.
Yet, the challenges of crew continuity are:
- Officers may become ‘typecast’ on the specific vessel and make it harder to man the rest of the fleet when flexibility is called for;
- Senior officers, familiar with their roles, may form cliques, affecting the performance of the unit and the crew.
- Individuals won’t have the chance to progress professionally, keeping in mind that they won’t have much experience from different positions if prevented from moving to another vessel.
This is important for junior officers, who might find their promotion prospects affected by a stable crewing regime.
In light of the above, the University of Southampton conducted a research, the Effective Crew project, along with TK Foundation and Lloyd’s Register Foundation.
The project was conducted with the objective of improving safety, welfare and efficiency at sea.
According to team leader Dr Kate Pike, the research resulted to many complexities depending on the fact that ships, trades and companies vary. According to Dr Pike, there is no one size fits all scheme that works for every type of shipping companies.
Also, the study showed that market conditions, relationships with charterers and clients, trading patterns have an impact on decision-making procedures and policies. The project highlighted the benefits and limitations of implementing either a fluid or a stable crewing strategy.
Concluding, Chris Wincott of NJC Associates, one of the Solent research team, stated that there are quantifiable financial advantages coming from crew continuity, whereas the crew’s familiarity with its vessel increases the vessel’s performance by 10%.