In the maritime industry where the majority of crew work on a contract basis, constantly dealing with employee and crew retention can be a major source of frustration for shipowners. In an ideal world the same hardworking and skilled crew members would return to your shipping company time and time again when they’re ready to get back to work after a period of shore leave.

But if that’s not happening, you need to come up with some employee retention ideas - and fast!

Employee and crew retention ideas for shipping companies

If your crew are abandoning ship and going to work for other shipping companies, it could be a sign that you need to design and implement some employee retention techniques by reevaluating your company’s policies. After all, it’s easier and cheaper to retain talent than it is to be constantly having to fill positions. With that in mind, here are some tips on how to retain crew in the maritime industry.

1. Create a truly great candidate experience

One of the best ways of getting crew to continue to work for you is by winning them over from the first point of contact. And that means ensuring they have an awesome candidate experience. You need your job adverts to be clear and concise and your maritime recruitment process to be user-friendly and organized.

Martide phone app showing job advert for a Chief Officer

For example Martide’s streamlined application process plus our mobile app makes applying for your vacant maritime industry jobs quick and easy for seafarers no matter where in the world they are.

Not sure how great your candidate experience is? Run an audit by going through the process yourself from the point of view of a job seeker. Or implement a candidate survey and ask recent hires what they thought of it. Asking for feedback about your recruitment procedure (and your employee experience) is just one of the crew retention ideas you could use as this shows that you care about the opinion of your staff or contractors.

2. Show employees or contractors some appreciation

Your crew spend many months at sea and showing a little appreciation for their hard work is crucial for boosting morale on a vessel and giving your seafarers a sense of job satisfaction. The knock-on effect of this is to make them think positively of their time at sea and of you as an employer.

This is so important while they’re on shore leave as it will make them far more likely to return to you for their next contract when the time comes.

All it takes is a simple “thank you” or a few words of praise for a job well done and this will mean ensuring that your senior crew members are taught to foster a culture of appreciation while working on your fleet.

Related: How to Boost Crew Retention Through Diversity & Tolerance

3. Encourage THEIR growth (and drive YOUR maritime recruitment efforts!)

Working in sea jobs in the maritime industry is a little different from the traditional 9 to 5. And while encouraging personal growth in a regular company makes sense for both employer and employee, at sea it’s not quite as simple.

If you’re recruiting for a second engineer job you are going to need someone that is qualified to work in a second engineer job! However, that doesn’t mean that you should discourage all of the seafarers who come to you looking for employment.  

Chalk board hanging on post saying Welcome Please Come In

You can turn situations like these in to another one of your employee and crew retention ideas. There’s nothing to be gained by rejecting a candidate who may be almost ideal for your second engineer job. They’ll think negatively of you and may not apply for your vacancies in the future. And you’ll still be left with an empty position to fill.

In Martide’s platform you’ll find a feature called Alternative Documents: a function that allows you to override the requirements you’ve specified for any given job vacancy. Of course, it's highly likely that you've said that anyone applying for your second engineer job must hold the relevant license. However your applicant doesn't have a the right qualifications - they only have a chief engineer's license. What are you going to do? Reject them?

Because a chief engineer is a higher rank to a second engineer, you can configure your settings to enable them to still apply.

That’s a win-win for both of you!

4. Communication is essential for crew retention

From the minute a seafarer applies for one of your crewing jobs to the moment they disembark at the end of their contract, communication lines should be kept open. Obviously this is made all the more difficult by the very nature of the maritime industry: you’re in your office and they’re somewhere in the middle of the ocean! However, while we’re on the subject of employee retention techniques, this is one you can’t afford to ignore.

Timely and transparent communication helps build trust and will create a positive image of your shipping company in the eyes of the seafarer.

Of course, clear communication is vital given the physical distance between you and your recruits or hires, the fact that there may well be language barrier issues, and the multiple factors that come into play in the typical maritime recruitment and crew management processes (for example, contract variance).

4 people in a field holding up plain colorful speech bubbles

Martide encourages seafarers to download our mobile app as we communicate important messages regarding their applications and contracts through this. You’ll also be able to stay in touch with them through the Martide platform thanks to our fuss-free message inbox and notifications features.

5. The importance of listening in employee retention

From the youngest deck cadet to your ship’s master, everyone likes to feel that they’re being listened to by their employer. Asking for feedback from your crew is a great way to help them feel more valued - thus improving crew retention and the likelihood of them signing their next contract with your shipping company.

Crucially, though, feedback does need to be acted upon if it is viable to do so otherwise it won’t take long for crew members to spot that you’re merely paying lip service to their suggestions or complaints.

The beauty is that this is one of the easier employee retention techniques to implement too - you could keep it as simple as asking a vessel’s master or chief officer to place a suggestion box onboard and then encourage honest comments by making the process anonymous. Or you could use Martide's Questionnaires function - read more here!

As well as improving your crew or employee retention rates this also gives you valuable insight into life on your vessels. You’ll be able to address issues and concerns therefore showing your seafarers you’re listening to them AND making their life at sea more comfortable. It's a classic domino effect!

black chalkboard with Feedback written on it in white

6. Upgrade your maritime recruitment efforts to boost crew retention

At Martide we are dedicated to making your maritime recruitment processes as streamlined as possible. We know that you need to fill your maritime industry vacancies in a timely fashion and always have one eye on your changeover dates!

Related: How Crewing Software can Boost Your Crew Retention Rates

That’s why we’ve created our complete crew management and maritime recruitment solution that lets you take control of your seafarers and vacancies from start to finish.

From finding qualified crew that meet your requirements to tracking your applicants and from running reports and analysis to tweak your processes, our software as a service does it all.

Plus our handy ex-crew function allows you to skip stages of the recruitment pipeline with seafarers you’ve already worked with - creating a shorter time-to-hire and making it another reason why employee retention techniques shouldn’t be ignored!