Shipping is an enormous venture. It requires extensive coordination on many fronts for a smooth, efficient and profitable operation. Among the range of services needed in ship management, crew management is an in-demand service that can be very difficult to obtain satisfactorily.
In this article, we shall take a look at the different responsibilities in crew management and learn how to choose the right crew manning company when you want a competent crew with all the right characteristics. But before we get there, let us start by understanding what crew management is.
What is crew management?
In ship management, crew management is the provision of a well-qualified and skilled crew to perform operational and technical tasks onboard marine and offshore vessels. The crew takes care of all the vessel’s needs and discharges its duties to meet the expected operational efficiency of a vessel.
A lot goes on behind the scenes to arrange the right crew for a vessel. The right candidates must be sourced, verified, trained and transported (sometimes across the world) within time for a vessel to function smoothly.
A crew manning or crew management agency takes care of all these tasks. It ensures that only the most competent crewmembers man the vessels under their care. Let us take a look at how a crew management company should function to achieve the aforementioned objectives.
Responsibilities in crew management
Crew management is a human-centric venture. It has many moving parts that must coordinate together to reach the end goal of manning the vessel with only the most appropriate crew.
To attract and retain such crew, the best agencies treat their crew as well as they treat their owners. They also act as the bridge between the two and undertake the following set of responsibilities.
- Building a crewing pool
- Help in obtaining documents
- Crew training
- Wages management
- Travel arrangement
- Supply of crew working gears
A crew manning agency must continuously recruit fresh talent for junior as well as senior positions on a vessel. They must build upon their current database to ensure that they can meet regular as well as emergency manning requirements (in the case of takeovers) on vessels with ease without compromising on the crew quality.
It must be noted that every owner and even different fleets with the same owner may have different crew qualifications. The crew manager coordinates with the owners to define the various crew matrices in order to supply crew members that match those requirements.
The agency usually screens candidates through tests and interviews prior to proposing them to the owners.
Building a crewing pool
Things rarely go according to plan in crew manning. Sometimes, the crew members may request an early relief or a contract extension. The agency must be able to handle this challenge.
To prepare for emergency signoffs, a manning agency ensures there are adequate crew members in reserve at all times. Lining up of crew members for the various ranks on specific ships occurs well in advance. This ensures smooth crew changes even in urgent cases.
On the other hand, if an onboard crew member wishes to extend their contract, a good crew manning company allows him to do so. The company may also have to employ his reliever on a different vessel if he was ready to join. Such an attitude helps improve crew satisfaction and retention levels.
This is done by staying in touch with the crew members regularly when they are on board or on vacation. During their vacation, they coordinate with them to set their rejoining dates as well as update any relevant certificates that may have expired.
Help in obtaining documents
From time to time, a crewing agency may need to help their crew members in obtaining the relevant documents such as certificates, visas, medicals, Ok to board letters and any other documents from the flag state or from agencies approved by the flag state.
A crew manning agency is responsible for ensuring that a crew is well trained for the vessel they are being sent on. Many crewing agencies have their own training centers. They can impart general as well as specific training on topics such as safety, hazmat, resource management and first aid.
They can also impart owner and vessel-specific training. This type of training is not as well regulated as STCW and flag state regulations but it is just as important for safe operations.
Payroll management services are also a part of the duties of a ship manning company. Timely remuneration of competitive wages is a characteristic that is always in demand by prospective crew members.
From the moment a seafarer leaves his house to his boarding the vessel and vice versa, the manning agency must arrange his travel, stay and meals.
Supply of crew working gears
Depending on the terms of the manning contract, a crew management company may have to supply the crew with working gear such as hard hats, boiler suits, safety shoes, work vest, gloves, goggles and more.
They must be of good quality and replenished as per need to ensure that the crew has sufficient PPE at all times.
How to choose the right crew management company?
Intelligent shipowners consider a variety of factors when selecting a crew management company for their vessels. Let us look at six such factors that assist in evaluating the suitability of different manning companies. These are:
- Crew selection criteria
- International crewing pool
- Training capabilities
- Types of vessels under current management and past experience
- Crew performance and monitoring processes
- Global presence
Crew selection criteria
One of the foremost indicators of a good manning company is their crew selection criteria. If a company follows a standard higher than the market average when selecting its crew, the vessels are almost always better maintained as well.
Factors such as the crew’s training institute, past experience, performance in previous companies, work ethic and attitude all play a significant role in predicting their performance in the recruiting company.
International crewing pool
Many vessels are crewed by a single or dual nationality crew to enhance cohesion and cooperation onboard.
The best crew management companies develop and maintain an international crewing pool to meet the demands of vessels that employ crews from specific countries.
Many manning agencies have their own training systems as well as entire training centres to regularly update the skills of their seafarers. They can provide generic as well as vessel-specific training before the crew boards the vessel.
The crew is well-appraised of the vessel requirements and can maintain the standards established by the owner and the manager.
Types of vessels under current management and past experience
When a manning company has a wider experience in managing a range of vessels, they develop their processes and selection criteria to improve the quality of the supplied crew.
This works in the favour of the owner, manager and the crew. They receive the proper support from the management to deal with different scenarios on board.
Crew performance and monitoring processes
A good crew management company preserves the quality of their crew by constantly evaluating its crew’s performance. This maintains a high standard of operation on vessels.
Through their processes, any inconsistencies or sub-par performance is brought to the notice of the manning company at the earliest and remedial action can be taken to prevent the occurrence of an incident.
A manning company’s global presence assists in logistical support to transport the crew at any location within time to prevent late or no-show crew changes.
The crew change planning and itinerary arrangement can occur in a smooth and predictable manner through the various checkpoints.
The maritime industry is facing an acute shortage of qualified and skillful crew members for some years now, especially for the top ranks.
Even though the supply has increased over the years, the demand has exceeded it. As a result, crew manning has become challenging for all the manning companies. This trend is expected to continue for all types of vessels.
In such a situation, it becomes imperative for owners to choose a reliable crew manning company that can meet expectations by delivering the right crew on time every time. The criteria mentioned above should help in narrowing down your choices and help with the selection.
If you need a competent crew with a stellar safety record manning your vessels, contact us today at [email protected]