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The success of any organization in today’s fiercely competitive economic environment depends on its ability to achieve heightened performance and efficiency from its limited resources, resulting in improved competitiveness and reduction of costs. All factors of production such as men, machines and materials require to be efficiently managed. Technologies and processes contribute greatly towards optimization of resources. However, management of the human resource that manages all other resources is more critical and challenging, as it is their individual performance that determines success or failure.

It has been long realized and accepted that it is only employees that provide sustained and durable competitive advantage to organizations. It is therefore a prerequisite of success that employees continuously deliver high levels of performance. In order to get the best from employees in terms of performance requires providing them with the optimal work environment in which they can deliver sustained and high levels of performance.

Conventionally, it has been argued that the employees will perform at the required levels just because they are being paid to do so. However, the attainment of effective performance is a two-way proposition which requires the organization also to do its part by encouraging, supporting and sustaining an optimal environment in which work can be performed with the greatest efficiency. This level of performance can only be achieved by engaging the employee and creating an enthusiasm for the work.

The maritime industry is also going through a rough patch over the last few years and is additionally beset by problems of a shortage of qualified officers, increased regulatory pressures, a commercially difficult and competitive environment, increasing casualties causing huge losses etc. To be able to survive these times requires the active participation of all stakeholders, especially the people who man ships and on whose performance the survival of the shipping company depends. Shipping has a unique characteristic in that great distances separate shore management – where decisions are taken, and ships – where work is executed. In such an environment, with ships operating as independent and autonomous units, the performance of seafarers assumes greater significance.

The purpose of the present study is to identify the conditions that contribute to effective performance of Indian merchant marine officers. This will assist in isolating the drivers and barriers of performance enabling shipping companies to develop suitable strategies accordingly.


The maritime industry is essentially a service industry providing sea transportation to its customers. However, this transportation has evolved over the last century moving from the lumbering ships sailing at 10 knots to the superfast container ships of today capable of delivering goods at speeds in excess of 25 knots.

Maritime transportation forms the backbone of international trade; indeed the phenomenal growth of trade between nations can be attributed to a great extent to the advancements and improvements made by the maritime industry. It is this industry that has allowed producers to transport diverse cargoes such as finished goods, automobiles, windmills, and liquefied gases


etc to all parts of the globe at the most economical unit costs, thereby benefitting millions of consumers worldwide. This evolution of transportation, especially in the segment of containers and vehicle transport, has brought about a paradigm shift in the way in companies do business around the world. It has also supported efficiency measures like Just In Time concepts and Vendor Managed Inventories by ensuring fast and reliable delivery of goods around the world.

Despite transporting in excess of 8 billion metric tons in 2011 (UNCTAD, 2011), the shipping industry remains a background industry with the general public not really aware of its contribution. Unfortunately, the only time shipping does make the news is when a disaster occurs and the world is quick to tar the entire industry on the basis of isolated incidents.

Internationalization of operations, lack of adequate control by flag state administrations, rise in casualties and environmental pollution etc have caused stricter regulations being imposed by regulatory bodies on the shipping industry. These regulations pose added financial burdens to ship owners who are already struggling with depressed market conditions and rising operating costs. In order to pare down costs and ensure survival, many ship owners have had to look at cutting costs wherever practicable. Many of these measures, such as reduced manning levels, reduction in the supply of necessary spares and stores, can have an impact on the performance of seafarers.

The Human Element – A Guide to Human Behaviour in the Shipping Industry, (MCA, 2010) reports the following startling facts:


From 2000 to 2005, on an average 18 ships were involved in collisions, groundings, sinking, catching fire or exploding every single day, out of which two ships sank every day.


Over a recent ten-year period, insurance claims cost the P&I industry US$15 billion, as estimated by Standard P&I Club. This translates to more than US$4 million dollars every single day. They also reported that more than 65% of this huge amount – equaling a mammoth US$10 billion – involved incidents which could be attributed to human causes.


The year 2006 was declared a ‘catastrophic year’ by the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI) as far as hull claims was concerned. 2007 proved to be four times worse!


IUMI reports the average number of incidents involving the serious or total loss of vessels over 500gt had steadily risen in the 15-year period to 2008. 60% of these – around two major incidents per day in 2008 – were due to human error.


The year 2008 saw – on average - a maritime disaster occur nearly every week, each involving insurance claims of over US$17m or had an economic impact of over US$85m. The same year, marine insurance companies paid out over half a billion US dollars for casualties.


A report from the UK P&I Club states that “The shipping industry is paying out more than $ 300 million a year to meet seafarers’ claims for injury, illness and death.”

Facts such as those presented above bring home the point that the performance of seafarers has to be above the minimum acceptable level in order to avoid any catastrophic losses. The maritime industry is very complex with a large number of players – ship owners, charterers, brokers, agents, shipyards, banks etc. The seafarers have a limited – although


important - role in that they are responsible for executing shipboard voyages with utmost dispatch and ensuring the cargo reaches the destination without damage. Although they may not contribute towards commercial operations like marketing and sales etc, they can definitely contribute by ensuring voyages are carried out using the shortest safe route, ensuring there are no delays to the ship due breakdowns, and taking care so that there are no claims on account of the cargo being damaged. Additionally, the safety of the entire ship, its crew, the cargo and the environment also rests on their shoulders.

The work of seafarers is very diverse in nature involving manual jobs, work that is procedure dictated, as well as work in which experience and judgement are called for. Shipping companies owe the success of their operations to seafarer’s personal knowledge and their ability to apply the knowledge gained from experience in keeping ships running smoothly and also solving new problems as they arise.

All industries today operate in a fiercely competitive international environment, where the competitive edge is held by the improved performance of employees. This is also applicable to the shipping industry where elevated levels of performance can improve service and reduce operating costs. Ship owners have invested in improving the “hardware” of shipping through better technology, but apparently not paid sufficient heed to ensure that the “software”, i.e., the manpower managing ships is motivated enough to willingly raise its performance level and ensure operational excellence.

It must be borne in mind that performance improvement is a continuous and ever evolving process. However, before embarking on the process of performance enhancement, companies must identify and address existing barriers to performance. Removal of these barriers will result in seafarers delivering acceptable or standard performance. It is only once standard performance levels are achieved, can enhanced performance be attained.

Many studies have been undertaken to identify the drivers of performance, and one of the most comprehensive models is provided by the Hay Group (2001) which identifies six main drivers. These are:

Inspiration and Values: This refers to the atmosphere in which employees work and is manifested through the quality of leadership, organizational values and behaviors, the brand image of the company, recognition of work and internal communication

Future Growth/Opportunity: All employees desire to progress in their careers; organizations should provide learning and development beyond their current jobs which will provide employees career advancement opportunities. This requires improvement of performance through continuous feedback and guidance.

Quality of Work: The nature and self perception of the work itself lends impetus towards better performance. Work should be such that it creates interest and challenge, supported by freedom and autonomy to accomplish tasks. Workload, co-worker relationships and recognition of achievements will also ensure enhanced performance.

Enabling Environment: High levels of performance can only be attained if employees are supported by the environment - both in terms of physical conditions as well as necessary resources. Resources would also include training for the job, availability of relevant and necessary information as well as safety at work.

Work/Life Balance: The balance between work and life is also essential in ensuring performance. This should be ensured through a supportive environment, which provides


positive social interaction at work. The job should also be such as to provide job security and ensure fulfillment of individual needs.

Tangible Rewards: One of the primary drivers of performance is the remuneration and rewards system in the form of pay, benefits, incentives and recognition of efforts. These should however be backed by a fair and just system which recognizes individual performance without any bias.

Ledford (2012) also finds seven primary levers for performance, namely work design, training and development, pay (especially incentives), benefits, feelings of affiliation with peers and the company, performance management, and selection systems.

These drivers are not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ and each organization needs to identify the drivers that are relevant to their individual context. It is only through such recognition can the barriers to performance be eliminated, clearing the way for raising performance levels.


The last four decades has seen the maritime industry focusing its attention on improving the safety culture in order to minimize accidents and incidents at sea. This desire for improvement has resulted in actions on all fronts, ranging from enhanced training legislations, to improved navigational equipment, to better hull designs, propulsion systems etc. This has resulted in the ships of today being much more technologically advanced, safe and reliable than their counterparts’ decades ago. However, all these efforts have not unfortunately reduced the casualties at sea significantly. Rothblum (2002) says that the maritime system is a people system, and human errors figure prominently in casualty situations, with about 75-96% of marine casualties are caused, at least in part, by some form of human error. Recent studies have found that human errors are responsible for:

84-88% of tanker accidents (Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 1994)

79% of towing vessel groundings (Cormier, 1994)

89-96% of collisions (Bryant, 1991; U.K. P&I Club, 1992)

75% of allisions (Bryant, 1991)

75% of fires and explosions (Bryant, 1991)

It can be seen that despite the strides in technology, training, and regulations, the results do not indicate that these are effective in reducing maritime casualties. It must be realized that it is the human who is interacting with the mechanical and technological environment and making decisions that can cause or avert any accident. Over the years, there has been tremendous focus on training being the only route to achieving competency and reducing casualties. However, as stated in IMO MSC (2003) training does not necessarily promote competence, and procedures cannot bring the awareness and understanding provided by competence. Training should thus be of such quality that it results in competence.

Apart from the costs of maritime casualties, ship owners also have to bear the consequences of this apparent lack of competency through loss of earnings directly associated with the performance of their seafarers, be it through cargo and operational claims, detentions due to port state control inspections, missed opportunities on failing vetting inspections and the like. The maritime industry has been struggling through very difficult and fiercely competitive times since 2008, with reduced earnings and increasing operational costs. Ship owners have to look at all possible ways to reduce costs and increase earnings to survive these depressed market conditions. In such an environment, the performance of seafarers


plays a very vital role as any losses – operational or casualty related – could bring huge financial burdens to ship owners, threatening their very survival.

In today’s internationally regulated maritime industry, all training has been standardized, whether for certificates of competency or other value based courses. This should deliver results in the form of improved competency levels of seafarers and their enhanced performance.

Performance depends on the shipboard environment, both the physical working conditions and the virtual environment dictated by organizational policies. The physical environment at sea is dynamic and dependant on natural conditions. Under such varying conditions, efforts must be made by ship owners to ensure the best feasible work atmosphere with the aim of completion of tasks safely and efficiently. The virtual environment creates the shipboard working climate and depends on the policies followed by the organization as regards various issues such as manning policies, safety culture, provision of necessary spares and stores, and the like. These organizational policies also affect the physical environment and are more critical to the performance of seafarers.

Training and certification standards being the same or constant all over the world, it is possible that the variability of the shipboard environment itself contributes to the enhancement or lessening of individual performance. Attention thus needs to be given to the optimal shipboard conditions that can promote performance.

This paper thus aims to identify, through a structured questionnaire, the conditions which seafarers consider as important to their performance.


The objective of the study is to measure the level of performance of Indian Merchant














More specifically the objectives of the project were to:

1. To measure performance levels of Indian Merchant Naval Officers

2. Identify the enablers of performance in the shipping industry.


The study is based on primary data collected using a questionnaire consisting of two sections. The first section was used to collect background information of respondents and consisted of eight (8) questions. The second section consisted of 23 statements designed to elicit responses on issues related to performance. The respondents were asked to rate their agreements with the statements on a five point rating scale ranging from Strongly Agree (5), Agree (4), Neutral (3), Disagree (2) and Strongly Disagree (1). These statements are listed in Table 1.

The questionnaire was designed by using the drivers of performance identified through literature review, and were further checked for face and content validity by consulting experts in the field of shipping and industry. Reliability and validity was ensured by conducting a pilot test using 20 respondents.


Table 1: Description of Variables






am happy with benefits like insurance, PF, paid leave etc I receive now



The Company provides us good recreational facilities



We have good facilities for contacting family & friends



I am happy with the quality of life on board



I have good relations with other crew on board



I find my work enjoyable



I can share my troubles and happiness with others



I find the training given by the Company very useful



I get regular feedback and guidance on my performance



The Company does not encourage breaking rules to achieve targets



The Company never puts schedules above safety



We can work independently without interference from the Company



We are never blamed for our mistakes



I am provided the spares/stores required to do my job well



I am happy with my salary



I can advance in my job based on merit and performance



My work load is too much




prefer regular employment to ‘contract’ working



Good work is recognized by the Company



The Company values my suggestions and opinions



Morale amongst the crew is high



The Company makes all efforts to relieve me on time



We have all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE)

After establishing validity, reliability of the survey was also verified using SPSS. Reliability is an indicator of any random errors in measurement, and relates to the precision and accuracy of the instrument in use (Norland, 1990). It also represents the internal consistency of the instrument, its stability, and its ability to deliver consistent results when repeated.

There are many forms of reliability tests in use, such as the split half, alternate form, test- retest, internal consistency etc, and since the scale in use was an interval scale, it was decided to measure internal consistency using the Cronbach alpha coefficient. An Alpha coefficient of 0.70 or greater indicates acceptable reliability, while 0.90 and above is excellent. The Cronbach’s Alpha of the questionnaire was calculated as 0.861 indicating a very high degree of internal consistency and reliability (Table 2).

Table 2: Reliability Statistics – Performance Variables

Cronbach's Alpha

Cronbach's Alpha Based on Standardized Items

N of Items




The population of Indian seafarers in 2010 was 46,497 (Drewry, 2012) and with an annual CAGR of 4.4%, this figure can be expected to be 50,678 in 2012. To determine the representative sample size, one of the most widespread methods of sample size estimation developed by Krejcie and Morgan (1970) was used. The minimum sample size required for a


95% probability was calculated as 381. The questionnaire was personally administered to Indian officers undergoing training at two maritime training centres in New Delhi and Gurgaon. A total of 455 respondents completed the questionnaires, and after rejection of 22 questionnaires on grounds of incomplete data, 433 were found valid for further statistical analysis.

The data collected was analysed by using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), in order to calculate means, frequencies, correlations and finally factor analysis. The sample size was also checked using SPSS for adequacy using Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure as well as Bartlett's Test of sphericity. A value of the KMO Statistic between 0.5 and 0.7 are considered mediocre, between 0.7 and 0.8 good, while values between 0.8 and 0.9 are great. The value obtained was 0.885 indicating great sampling adequacy. Bartlett’s measure is less than 0.001, indicating that factor analysis is appropriate. The obtained values are shown in Table 3 below.

Table 3: KMO and Bartlett's Test

Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy. Approx. Chi-Square



Bartlett's Test of Sphericity







In order to measure performance levels, weightage was assigned to each response as follows - Strongly Agree (5), Agree (4), Neither Agree nor Disagree (3), Disagree (2) and Strongly Disagree (1). A response of 4 or 5 indicated high performance, while 1 or 2 indicates unacceptable levels. The “Top Performers” group includes scores between 0.8 and 1.00, while the “Non Performers” group score would lie between 0.20 and 0.40. The middle range, between 0.41 and 0.79 has been subjectively divided into the “High Performers” group (0.60 to 0.79) and the “Average Performers” segment (0.41 to 0.59).

The data was found to be normally distributed, and the Q-Q plot showed all data points falling very close to the ideal diagonal line. The skewness and kurtosis were 0.104 & -0.180 respectively. The results are shown in table 4 below.

Table 4: Categorical Distribution of Performance Scores






Top Performers


to 1.000



High Performers


to 0.799



Average Performers


to 0.599



Non Performers


to 0.400







The results show that only 7.85% of officers can be considered as top performers, with none falling in the non-performing category. A significant percentage of 69% officers fall in the high performing category, and a quarter are average performers.



The collected data was analyzed using factor analysis in order to reduce data and discover correlations and the underlying factors accounting for maximum variance. The factor analysis resulted in the identification of seven factors which together accounted for 65.186 percent of total variance (Table 5). For better definition and clarity of factors, only loadings of more than 0.5 were considered.

Table 5: Extracted Factors and Total Variance

Eigen %age of Factors Loadings Value Variance Factor 1: Best Employer Practices Benefits Recreational facilities
%age of
Factor 1: Best Employer Practices
Recreational facilities
Communication facilities
Quality of shipboard life
Factor 2: Work and Work Environment
Interpersonal relations
Nature of work
Best friend at work
Factor 3: Training & Development
Feedback & guidance
Factor 4:
Procedural commitment
Safety commitment
Factor 5: Work culture
Work autonomy
No blame culture
Factor 6: Material & Monetary Resources
Work resources
Factor 7: Future career
Career advancement
Factor 8: Work Load
Work load
Factor 9: Job Security
Permanent employment

The factors extracted can be explained as follows:


More and more, employees are being recognized as the primary source of competitive advantage, and as the war for talent increases, organizations have to develop HR strategies in order to attract, develop and retain valuable employees (Joo and Mclean, 2006). These are the characteristics of Best Employers, who are committed and passionate about their people, and have a holistic approach to building a work environment in which employees are constantly


engaged and committed to business success (Looi, et al., 2004). Best Employers thus tend to go beyond the minimum required in terms of conditions being offered to their employees.

In the case of the maritime industry, the best employers go the extra mile for their seafarers, by providing them conditions better than the average employer. In an industry based on the contractual system of employment, one of the main attractions to seafarers is the provision of benefits and a better quality of shipboard life. Benefits in the form of medical cover – both whilst at sea and on leave, provident fund, leave wages etc can attract talented officers and contribute greatly to their performance levels. In an industry where such benefits are not usually offered - as evident by only 31% respondents agreeing to being satisfied with their benefits - ship owners and managers need to tap into the potential of benefits being able to raise performance levels, and reap consequent dividends. Holm, C (2006) considers that seafarers, and how the company treats them, is the main factor in how well the whole company performs.

The quality of shipboard life also plays a major role in enhancing performance. Seafarers spend months together away from family, and the ship should provide them with better facilities to be considered their second home. Both the work atmosphere as well as the rest environment should allow seafarers to feel energized enough to undertake their tasks with the greatest enthusiasm. A better quality of shipboard life can be had through the provision of adequate ‘off work’ facilities such as recreation, gymnasiums, swimming pool, etc which create more interaction between the limited crew members on board, contributing to their mental well being. The ability to maintain regular interaction with family and friends is also essential to the seafarers’ mental stability and there should be provisions for this too through cheaper communication systems, e-mail as well as internet service.

The survey found that although 49.5% officers were positive about the quality of shipboard life, 63.3% of officers were not positively satisfied with the recreation facilities provided to them and 61.4% with the communication facilities available.


Pride in the job provides all employees with a sense of meaning, worth and purpose. The nature of the work should be such as to create enthusiasm in the worker in order for him to discharge it to the best of his ability. However, most jobs are not done in isolation, but require team effort. Good interpersonal relationships at work have the potential of converting the most difficult of tasks into successes. Additionally, where different departments are involved in common ventures, there should be stable and productive interdepartmental working relationships.

The work on board ships is different from the ordinary, while being dynamic and challenging; an attractive proposition for any youngster. This is attested to by nearly two thirds (64.4%) officers enjoying their work. However, the shipboard environment is transient in nature with periods of employment between ranks varying considerably. Officers have to contend with new co-workers at every tour of duty, and have to build their relationships anew with all of them, and this can have an impact on their performance. They also have to form friendships with fellow officers who can help and guide them at work, as well as provide the opportunity to unburden troubles; something that is not easy every time he joins a ship. The survey showed that while an overwhelming 89% of officers had good interpersonal relationships on board, only 47% were able to form good friendships on board.



Training and development is an essential ingredient in ensuring high performance. Jobs are continuously evolving with the addition of new processes and technology requiring employees to be retrained in their new roles. At the same time, they also need impartial feedback and guidance on their performance to ensure that their progress is in the right direction.

Amongst the officers surveyed, 60.7% were satisfied by the training they received, but less than half (44.8%) were happy about the feedback and guidance mechanisms in place. In the absence of regular monitoring, feedback and guidance, performance of officers can be expected to be below expected standards.


All shipping companies have standard operating procedures that dictate the procedures to be followed for all activities – operations as well as safety - on board. These procedures are as per the requirements of the International Safety Management Code, and no shipping company can operate without complying with the provisions of the Code. Even though there are strict external audits to ensure procedures are being followed, many shipping companies may have a gap between procedures and reality. Shipping companies need to ‘walk the talk’; strictly follow the procedures laid out by them under all circumstances.

Amongst the officers surveyed, nearly 30% did not find their organizations committed to procedures, while 44% found their commitment to safety lacking.


The ability to work independently without interference and the existence of a ‘No Blame’ culture are both essential ingredients in ensuring high levels of performance. Functional autonomy to employees creates enthusiasm for the work, enhances creativity and motivation. Employees rate freedom at the top of their list of drivers of performance, agreeing that although following standard practices can deliver superior performance, but freedom to innovate and explore can deliver excellent results (Arcus Group, 2011). This should be supported by a ‘just culture’ in which honest errors are not penalized. The absence of such a culture will lead to a lack of motivation and employees taking the safe road under fear of reprisals. “The blame culture and the increasing desire to criminalise those who make mistakes is a serious problem that puts good managers off the industry and makes the attraction of good seafarers into the profession very difficult” (Storgard et al., 2012).

Operations in the shipping industry are usually dictated by standard operating procedures of shipping companies, leaving very little room for creative thinking and initiative. Only 30.5% of the officers polled agreed that they had sufficient autonomy at work, while only 18 % agreed that their organizations had a ‘no blame’ culture.


The availability of necessary materials to execute the job has a major bearing on the level of performance. These materials can be in the form of stores and spares, or even information relevant to the tasks. Another important driver of performance is satisfaction with the salary


received by employees. It is only once the employee is satisfied with his pay that he will focus whole heartedly on the job, achieving the desired level of performance.

The survey revealed that 55.9% of officers were not positive about the salary they received and at the same time 52.7% felt that they did not have the necessary materials to execute their tasks efficiently.


Every employee expects to advance in his chosen career, and the organization should ensure an environment where merit and performance form the sole criteria for promotions. The lack of procedural justice can result in disenchantment and make the highest of performers lose enthusiasm for the job if he feels that his performance and merit are going to be overlooked for promotions.

On this issue, 72.3% of officers were positive that they could advance in their jobs based on merit and performance alone, a positive indicator for the shipping industry. However, this must be ensured by all shipping companies so that the officer is always motivated to do his best.


The eighth factor isolated refers to the workload of officers, and is currently an issue under debate in the shipping industry. Achieving leaner operations has resulted in crew sizes being pared down to the minimum, creating consequent higher loads on the remaining crew on board, leading to fatigue. The Cardiff Research Programme on seafarer fatigue found that around half the seafarers surveyed reported that their working hours had increased over the past 10 years, despite new regulations intended to combat fatigue. The STCW Convention considers it acceptable for seafarers to work for 98 hours every week, compared to ILO 180’s 72 hours and only 48 hours in the European Working Time Directive. Fatigue is known to affect judgment and performance, leading to costly errors. Crew size and training decisions directly affect crew workload and their capabilities to perform safely and effectively (Rothblum, 2012).

A significant 82.9% of respondents felt that their work load was excessive. Under such a working environment, it can reasonably be presumed that performance will be affected, to the detriment of the shipping company.


The last factor identified relates to job security of officers. The majority of employment in the maritime industry is based on a ‘contract’ system, whereby officers are employed for a fixed tenure ranging from four to nine months. Although shipping companies would like to have their officers’ return after their leave period, there is hardly any incentive for them to do this. Additionally, it is not unusual for shipping companies to replace certain nationalities with others who are on lower wage scales. The contract system also reduces the obligation of shipping companies to provide additional benefits such as medical insurance etc. All these conditions result in creating job uncertainty amongst officers which could negatively impact their performance. As a reminder of this uncertainty, two thirds (66.1%) of officers indicated their preference for a permanent job as against working on a contractual basis. Ship owners


need to devise strategies to ensure that this fear of job continuity is removed from the minds of officers in order to have sustained high performance levels.


Performance levels indicate that the top performing bracket is significantly low at 7.85%. However, there are no non-performers which can be taken as a positive indicator. High performers constitute the largest segment, and performance being a continuum, it should be the focus of ship owners to move these high performers towards being top performers by implementing some of the measures identified as drivers and barriers.

Factor analysis identified nine factors which contribute to the performance of Indian officers. The first factor was related to the HR practices followed by shipping companies, and indicates that ‘extra role’ facilities provided to officers may enhance performance. Desirable conditions expected by officers include the provision of benefits and better quality of life on board. The fact that less than a third of officers felt satisfied with the benefits received indicates that this is an area ship owners need to concentrate on. Again, nearly half were satisfied with the quality of shipboard life, but slightly less than two thirds felt that recreation and communication facilities could be better. The arrangement of better indoor recreational facilities and cheaper communication systems like e-mail, internet etc are small costs in the face of the gains that can be had in performance.

The nature of shipboard work is satisfying with two thirds finding it enjoyable. This is a positive indicator, and coupled with 89% forming good working relationships can be used to the companies’ advantage. However of concern is the fact that less than half form good friendships on board. Companies may look at better rotational policies so that officers have the opportunity of working with each other more frequently, instead of having to restart friendships every time they join a ship.

The third factor was the opportunities for development available to officers. Here, a majority of officers found the training provided to be useful, but were unhappy with the feedback and guidance provided them. A more transparent mechanism for dealing with constructive guidance and impartial feedback should be instituted to ensure that officers progress on the right path and can enhance their performance.

Commitment to laid-down procedures as well as to safety is equally important to instil trust in officers that the senior management does indeed care for them. Safety and procedures should not be bypassed in the face of commercial or economic pressures, and seafarers should feel that the organization believes in their own procedures both in letter and spirit. Although a majority of officers feel positively about their organization’s commitment to procedures, the numbers reduce where safety commitment is concerned. Shipping companies need to ensure that their commitment to safety is transparent and visible to all as the absence of safety is bound to hamper performance levels.

The fourth factor dealt with the environment in which work is carried out on board. Here nearly 82% officers concurred that a ‘no-blame’ culture did not exist, and 70% did not have the independence to carry out work without interference from shore management. Both these unfortunately serve to kill initiative and creativity, causing performance loss. A certain amount of working to procedures, and allowing more freedom in task execution could see performance levels rise. Shipping companies should therefore look at ways of delegating more responsibility to ship’s staff, along with the promotion of a fair culture where honest mistakes are not penalized.


The availability of spares and stores is crucial to execution of tasks efficiently, and organizations need to ensure that required materials are readily available. High levels of

performance cannot be expected if requisite materials are not available, and with more than half the officers dissatisfied with the supply of stores and spares, shipping companies need to address this issue if they expect higher levels of performance. At the same time, pay also has

a bearing on performance as it is also linked to a feeling of self worth and value.

Dissatisfaction with pay is usual, but organizations can investigate other means, such as benefits and incentives, to augment income and improve performance.

Future career prospects is identified as the seventh factor with nearly three quarters of officers agreeing that they could advance based on merit and performance. This could partly

be due to the current shortage of officers at sea, but is an important driver of performance that

should be leveraged by shipping companies. Good work and merit should be recognized and

promotions should be impartial based on these aspects alone.

The issue of increasing work load is a cause for concern as it directly leads to a drop in performance. Cost cutting has resulted in bare minimum crews on board, and with 83% officers considering their work load excessive; steps need to be taken by ship owners that the resultant fatigue does not cause a drop in performance. Increasing the manning levels on ships with higher workloads is one way of ensuring sustained performance.

The last factor concerns security of employment for officers in an industry where the nature of employment itself is impermanent. A regular employment strategy, with associated benefits and perquisites would go a long way in enhancing performance. With more than two thirds of officers preferring regular employment over contractual terms, a shift to permanent employment would provide stability to officers and enable them to perform at higher levels.

The above results indicate that there are many factors that officers feel very positively about and ship owners should capitalize on them to enhance performance levels. At the same time, the negative facets of their jobs also need to be addressed. A balanced strategy in regard

to these negative and positive factors will go a long way in boosting performance, resulting in

better earnings for ship owners.


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