The discussion about the global shortage of top talent within the maritime industry is at an all time high meaning it's time to talk about your retention strategies. Seafarers (and in particular ship’s officers) are increasingly hard to come by and the fact that crew retention is also becoming a thorn in shipping companies' sides only serves to compound the problem.

Indeed many mariners are choosing to transition to maritime jobs ashore earlier than ever before, cutting short their time spent at sea. So what can ship owners and managers do to stop crew from jumping ship?

This premature move to shore based jobs in the  maritime industry spans all ranks, from officers to ordinary seamen to ratings, meaning that extending the number of years that seafarers actually spend at sea is now just as important as attracting new recruits to the shipping industry.

So how do shipping companies increase crew retention and ensure the people they’ve invested time and money in are more inclined to stay aboard their vessels, and for longer?

blue and white faded painted wooden sign saying stop

Developing retention strategies: contractor and employee engagement

A good deal of research has been done over the last twenty years into the correlation between employee engagement and employee retention. And it has shown compellingly conclusive evidence that if an employee (or contractor) has a good working relationship with their employer and actively enjoys and is engaged with their work, their performance is far more satisfactory.

“That’s not rocket science...” we hear you say: after all it stands to reason that an engaged and happy employee is a productive employee.

But consider that engagement results in a whole raft of other positives: for example, an engaged worker is less likely to leave their employer and is more likely to go the extra mile to produce top results.

blurred photo of athletes jumping over hurdles on an athletics track

That’s great in a sales office or retail environment but exchange those workplaces for a container vessel and we’re talking about results that can also be measured by higher morale, greater attention to detail, and less lapses in safety and judgement.

But the big question is how do you develop crew retention strategies to engage more effectively with the members of your crew?

Contractor Engagement Tip 1: Technology

Love it or loathe it, the fact is, technology might just be your secret weapon, especially when it comes to attracting and retaining younger seafarers. Millennials and Generations Y and Z in particular expect employers to not only recruit candidates through technology, but also engage with them on an ongoing basis as well as empower them in the workplace with access to digital solutions.

Take for example research conducted in 2016 which showed that 44% of job seekers on the recruitment site Indeed exclusively used their mobile device to search for jobs.

smartphone showing Martide's seafarer job app

That’s why at Martide we’ve made sure that our website and our shipping job vacancy board are optimized and mobile responsive.

We’ve also created the Martide app which helps anyone looking for jobs at sea apply for vacancies when they’re on the go through their smartphone or other handheld mobile device. You can download the app for Android devices through Google Play here, or for iPhones from the Apple Store here.

By demonstrating that your shipping company understands how to harness the power of technology and uses it to make crew members' lives more efficient and more secure you are telling your contractors that you care about their day to day experience onboard and their well being.

Contractor Engagement Tip 2: Transparency

It’s vital that shipping companies, HR departments and maritime recruitment agencies are totally transparent during the recruitment process about the duties that jobs on ships entail - and about the potential risks involved in a career at sea.

There’s no escaping the fact that there can be some negativity surrounding the perception of a seafarer’s life onboard and as an industry we need to do all we can to dispel the myths - while being honest. A job in shipping is not a desk bound 9 to 5 position - and that is exactly what the majority of applicants find so appealing.

view of mountains and ocean through ship's port hole

But we owe it to cadets and new recruits who are fresh out of maritime academy to arm them with the information they need to adequately prepare themselves for a life at sea.

Sugarcoating the lifestyle may improve the number of new hires in the short term but it will not improve crew retention rates. Yes, seafaring as a career can be hard work but you should inspire confidence by ensuring that your candidates realize that onboard working conditions comply with international standards in accordance with the requirements recommended by IMO and ILO.

Not only that, but the job itself will provide a unique window on the world and will result in a personally (and often financially) rewarding career choice.

Contractor Engagement Tip 3: Tolerance

Multiculturalism and acceptance are a huge part of life onboard. Seafarers travel the world and crews are made up of any number of nationalities. As a shipowner or manager you need to inspire an onboard (and company-wide) culture of awareness, tolerance and understanding. Not convinced this is a factor in your retention strategies?

lollipops in different colors with sprinkles and glitter on top

Maybe a survey that showed that “almost a quarter of younger officers who have given up a sea career have taken this decision after a bad experience as part of a multicultural crew” will convince you it’s a pretty big deal.

This is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed given that the world merchant fleet is manned by seafarers of different cultures, backgrounds, races, religions and mother tongues.

Shipping companies need to foster and embrace this diversity and ensure it filters down to crew members. Ship Masters and senior officers should also take pains to ensure their style of communication allows crew members of different nationalities and levels of experience to clearly understand instructions, while improving onboard relations and therefore increasing efficiency and contractor retention.  

At Martide we filter candidates for suitability according to the criteria you set when you build a Recruitment Pipeline and create your shipping job vacancies. This means that shipowners and managers don’t have to spend hours sorting through hundreds of unsuitable candidates.

woman holding her fist up with focus printed on the back of her hand

It allows you to instead focus your recruitment efforts purely on seafarers who are qualified and hold the correct documentation. It also means that the right applicant is far more likely to end up in the right role - thus helping to increase the chances of them finding a position they love and therefore giving you a greater shot at improving contractor retention.

If your crew retention strategies need some help, talk to Martide today about implementing our applicant tracking system and hiring management tool and start impressing candidates right from the get-go!