London, UK - The shipping industry has dealt with its fair share of challenges throughout the years. Most recently, the sector was alarmed by the surprise collapse of shipping giant Hanjin[i] along with continued pressure caused by widespread consolidation and merger activity and pricing challenges. Also there are constant concerns about skill shortages and security risks with incidences of piracy and cyber attacks regularly appearing in the news.
What is meant by skill shortages? The latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report forecasts a serious shortage in the supply of seafarers[ii]. This sentiment seems to back up what many in the shipping industry have known for a long time: expert and specialist skills are often in high demand but in short supply, a situation worsened by the demographics of an ageing marine workforce. As for security risks, these encompass the traditional danger zones including adverse weather conditions and heavy equipment. In addition to keeping staff safe, shipping companies face increased regulation and stiff financial penalties should they fail to comply with important safety and data regulation standards. All in all, the drive to do more with less, stay safe and profitable is today more intense than ever before.
The drive towards effective quality and safety management
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, it’s time to take a look at your own workforce processes, putting quality and safety management at the top of the agenda. It needn’t be as difficult as you think if you consciously make the time to re-consider your strategy and re-assess your approach to technology. The following vital two steps should put you on the right track:
Step One – Create an effective Skills Matrix – creating a successful shipping company starts with a successful team of people and the first step is to understand what talent you already have. Developing an effective training and skills matrix helps you capture and understand existing qualifications as demonstrated by licenses or certificates and competencies reflected by specific job skills, knowledge and experience.
Knowing what skills you have then highlights any critical gaps in training and skills shortfalls. This is valuable information that can be used to devise meaningful personal development and career progression programmes that truly engage and retain quality staff for the long-term. Another bonus is that better utilization of existing staff avoids wasting time and money on hiring costly contractors or running expensive and unnecessary recruitment campaigns.
The other benefit of maintaining a skills matrix is compliance management, particularly with regard to safety. Shipping companies are regulated by international bodies such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and seafarers must show they comply with their regulations through documentary evidence such as certificates. Using a skills matrix, safety and compliance teams can see if enough skilled staff are available to meet safety requirements. Then to check which personnel are missing mandatory or required certificates or competences as well as training records, skills expiry dates and any endorsements necessary for different geographic regions.
Step Two – Invest in the right technology – the latest workforce management solutions have the power to underpin important quality and safety management processes. Look out for a fully automated, integrated system that offers skills and compliance management functionality out-of-the-box. This guarantees:
- A global view - modern workforce management solutions bring together every single piece of information you’ll ever need – in minutes. A centralized repository of real-time data gives a complete picture of seafaring staff skills and activities affecting safety compliance. Any shortcomings can be quickly identified, proactively addressed and remedied to minimize the risk of non-compliance
- Easy compliance with health and safety regulations – a single, web-based skills matrix that stores all the relevant associated documentation provides the hard evidence necessary to simplify and accelerate the auditing process
- Future-readiness - when it comes to managing big data, the latest solutions are innovative, highly scalable and future-proof. They are sophisticated enough to analyze current resource competencies and model for future requirements quickly and efficiently. This means that all subsequent recruitment programmes reflect the needs of the business by attracting the right number and types of talent into the organization
- Happy clients – powerful skills management information makes it easy to produce meaningful reports that demonstrate vessel and position compliance against a published skills matrix or specific client requirements. This inspires confidence, boosts client loyalty and enhances corporate reputation.
In conclusion, quality, well-trained and motivated staff are vital to overcome the challenges that lie ahead for the shipping industry. Aim to cultivate a culture of quality and safety across your organization by combining the right processes with the right technology. In return, you’ll keep the staff you want and ensure they are safe at all times now and in the future.
Donald Anderson, is a senior advisor to the board of directors at Dynama. Donald was previously CEO at V.Ships Group.