Colin Gillespie, Deputy Loss Prevention Director, North of England P&I Club  says,

‘Once a shipowner has selected one or more chief officers for promotion to captain, a comprehensive programme of training and coaching should be put in place to ensure they are fully prepared to assume command. In addition to achieving the necessary STCW certification, the programme should include learning about mentoring, pastoral care and their over-riding safety duties under SOLAS.’

The Club suggests to use a simple checklist so that there is proof of the key skills being assessed. This might include:

  • The relevant section from your or ship manager’s SMS. Relevant ‘Guides for Ship Master’ from various organisations.
  • Relevant ‘Guides for Ship Master’ from various organisations
  • Something like STCW Part A and Part B Chapter VIII

Gillespie says all masters need to understand how to be good mentors, enabling them to pass on their valuable experience to officers and crew and thereby improve job competence throughout their ships.

‘Chief officers chosen for promotion will have already benefited from being mentored by masters and other officers, but they should be given specific training in mentoring skills to ensure the process continues.’

 Just like pastoral care training there should be training in how to be a good mentor. Unless the Master understands the need for this function then it is difficult to assess and develop competency

Captains also need to be able to provide good leadership and pastoral care. ‘This is essential to ensure crewmembers are happy and enjoy their work. Chief officers in line for promotion should therefore have training on promoting and championing good pastoral care on board. Pastoral care is not rocket science: it’s simply a case of creating a strong on-board “family”, with the master at the head.’, he also says.

Pastoral care is not rocket science. It might sound cheesy but it’s as simple as being a strong ‘on board family’. With internet access becoming a must have rather than a luxury, crew family problems are instant. Crew must feel that despite being isolated from their families at home they have the bond and close support of their ‘on board family’. For example, if the motorman is acting strangely someone must notice and ask why. The Master as the head of the ‘on board family’ must be told, or hopefully if he is a good leader he will have noticed himself.

The Master must also be striving for better and safer crew performance. For example, he should see control of hours of work and rest as a key factor for a happy crew that will enjoy their work a lot more. Such rules are there for a purpose. In marine accident reports, fatigue is usually identified as a factor. All Masters should be briefed on how to manage fatigue on board through robust control of hours of work and rest.

Gillespie further says that all would-be masters must fully understand their over-riding responsibilities under SOLAS for the safety of people and the environment. If the Master takes a safety decision that overrides all other issues or influences then he must understand that to do so requires a significant reason. He must be able to show how and why he took that decision. He needs to accumulate good evidence at the time and make it known at the time. It does not look good when you put together evidence after the event!

‘SOLAS V regulation 34-1 states that masters are free to take any decision which, in their professional judgement, is necessary for the safety of life at sea and protection of the marine environment. Understanding this all-powerful duty needs to be a vital part of preparing chief officers for command.’

In conclusion, Gillespie reminds shipowners that running ships is a joint task between the on-board management team and the ship operations team ashore.

‘Both teams need to contribute to training and coaching chief officers for command. The more this becomes part of the safety culture of the company, the better prepared chief officers will be to make the big step up to captain.’

North P&I Club's latest issue of Signals (October 2016) provides information relating to loss prevention and other topics of interest to those engaged in the business of operating ships both at sea and on shore. You may find it by clicking herebelow

North - Signals newsletter

Source: The North of England P&I Club