INTERTANKO’s Human Element in Shipping Committee (HEiSC) prepared these recommendations, which are written with crewing managers and shore-side staff in mind.

The advice and recommendations are for the consideration of shore-side staff when providing practical guidance to leadership teams on how to manage crew that may be experiencing stress as a result of prolonged service onboard.

There are four key areas of consideration:

  • Effective Communication
  • Look out
  • Reach out
  • Lead by example

Tips for effective communication

Firstly, be compassionate, empathetic, courteous and considerate. It’s not easy to do this under pressure when many questions are asked, but shore-side staff need to adopt a patient approach. Do not over-assure. The objective is not to soothe, but to convey accurate information and calm concern.

In fact, it is better to over-estimate the problem and then be able to say that the situation is better than first thought.

Secondly, acknowledge uncertainty. Say only what you know, show concern and acknowledge the concern of your crew. Emphasise that a process is in place to resolve the issue.

Then, be regretful, not defensive. Say, “We are sorry…”, or “We feel terrible that…” when acknowledging the issue. Acknowledge people’s fears and concerns. Don’t tell the crew they should not be afraid. They are afraid and have a right to share their fears/concerns.

In addition, express wishes. Say, “I wish we knew more,” or “I wish we had more definitive answers from the government/ authorities”.

Finally, be willing to address the ‘what if’ questions. These are the questions that everyone is thinking about and they want your answers. “What will happen to us if the Covid-19 issue doesn’t resolve in the next one or two months?” Empathetic Listening - One basic principle is to “seek to understand, before being understood.”

People will only feel comfortable to share their true feelings and thoughts when they are convinced that they will be heard appropriately, without judgment from the listener.


  • Be nonjudgmental - allow people to express their worries or stress.
  • Give the person your undivided attention.
  • Listen carefully (to feelings and facts).
  • Show concern by asking about their families and their wellbeing.
  • Follow up, especially with those who show signs of weak coping ability. Most importantly, firmly assure that worrying events will pass and everyone will be safe at home with their families again.


  • Belittling people’s worries or concerns.
  • Offering solutions or advice.
  • Sounding repetitive and giving out the same information.

Why is effective communication important?

Effective communication can help to foster a good working relationship between you and your crew onboard, which can in turn improve the team’s morale, productivity, commitment and efficiency.

Besides, how people are treated and managed on a day-to-day basis is central to their mental well-being and motivation, as well as the level of trust they put in the Ship Management team.

The behaviours of the Ship Management team will largely determine to what extent the crew onboard stay resilient under pressure during periods of prolonged shipboard service and remain loyal to the company during tough times.

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