If you’re a small to medium sized shipowner or ship manager, or a manning agent, and you’re struggling to retain your seafarers after the end of each contract, it’s fair to say there could be a problem with your crew retention strategy.
Being unable to hold on to the best seamen and watching them walk away to line up their next contract with one of your competitors is both frustrating and costly. Now you’re back at square one and have to start the maritime recruitment process all over again.
So how do you stop your crew members jumping ship (almost quite literally) after a couple of months - leaving you high and dry and scrambling to find a replacement for your candidate database?
There are a number of different factors that lead to issues with crew retention and we've covered them in some other blog posts, but for this article we’re going to take a closer look at just one of them: communication.
Why great communication is essential for crew retention
Communication is a huge part of making the people that work for your shipping company feel valued, and in turn committed. And that goes for whether they’re shore based employees or contracted seamen.
It’s dangerous to assume that just because a crew member is on a four or six month contract that you don’t need to show them the same levels of engagement and respect as you would someone working in your office.
The fact is, if you want dedicated, qualified and professional seamen and women to line up their next contract with you, you need to show them some appreciation - assuming you're not already of course!
And one way you can do that is through keeping the lines of communication open throughout their period of employment.
After all, it will make life a lot easier for you when it comes to filling your vacant maritime jobs!
From the very minute you contact a seafarer with a view to having them fill one of your jobs at sea, or from the point that they apply for one of your seafarer jobs themselves, you need to be responsive and transparent in the way that you deal with them.
And that needs to extend to the moment that they disembark from the vessel at the end of their contract.
We know that staying in touch and communication is made a whole lot more complicated by the very nature of the maritime industry. When you’re sitting at your desk in your office and your seafarers are somewhere in the middle of the ocean, or ashore but in a completely different time zone, it’s not as simple as picking up the phone to check in and make sure everything’s okay.
But if crew retention is important to you - and it should be if you want to fill your jobs at sea more quickly and easily - then communication is something you can’t afford to ignore.
Read more: Why Listening is Vital for Crew Retention
Clear communication is crucial from the get-go, especially given the physical distance between you and your seafarers.
Add to that, the fact that there is the possibility of there being a language barrier between you both and it makes it even more vital that you communicate clearly and consistently with your crew members so they know what is happening at every step of the maritime recruitment process and during their time at sea.
Need to contact a seaman working on one of your vessels jobs about a change in their contract? Have their flights home changed? You’ll need a way of getting the message out there quickly and effectively if you are to deal with any issues relating to crew management at your end.
The last thing you want is your seafarer to not know what's happening and feeling like they’re being kept in the dark.
Why better communication helps in maritime recruitment
You have ranks you need to find crew for on your vessels. Crew change over dates come and go and sometimes it can feel like a never ending cycle of trying to find suitable, licensed crew for your open positions.
The entire maritime recruitment process is far easier if you can re-hire ex-crew members who you know and trust.
But that's the billion dollar question:
How do you ensure that the people you want to re-employ also want to work with your shipping company again?
If you’re operating on a principle of communicating in a timely and transparent manner with your contracted seafarers, it will help build trust between you and your crews, and also create a positive image of your shipping company or manning agency in the eyes of the seafarer.
And that leads to them wanting to line up their next contract with you - and means your crew retention rates will improve.
How Martide helps combat crew retention issues
At Martide our whole purpose is to connect shipowners, ship managers and manning agents like you with qualified seafarers. We help you fill your jobs at sea, and we find employment for licensed seamen and women from across the globe who are looking for work.
The relationship we have with our clients and with those looking for seafarer jobs is only possible because we place great importance on communication.
Here are just two ways in which we try and foster a culture of communication so that you have a better connection to your seafarers.
The Martide seafarer job app
We actively encourage the seafarers who contact us looking for maritime jobs to download our mobile app as this is where we communicate important messages regarding their applications and contracts.
Read more: How Crewing Software Can Increase Your Crew Retention Rates
Plus, when you’re using Martide’s maritime recruitment and crewing software solution, this takes the stress out of wondering how on earth you can get in touch with your crew members while they’re at sea too.
That's because you can easily keep in contact with your seafarers through the Martide platform thanks to our user-friendly in-built message inbox. Our messaging feature also allows employers and manning agents to connect with one another, all in one place.
Communicate with seafarers through questionnaires
Everyone likes their voice or point of view to be heard and our Forms feature makes asking - and receiving - seafarer feedback a breeze.
It's all about enhanced communication and about making both regular interviews and post-disembarkation interviews far easier to conduct, as well as a lot more insightful.
You can use Forms to create interviews and questionnaires using a number of different question formats. Better still, you can use as many formats in one Form and ask as many questions as you like.
You can cover anything you like from a seafarer's availability dates to their preferences regarding vessel types to how they found the food on their last ship!
It’s all part of your crew retention strategy and it will help you fill your vacancies for seafarers more easily.
How Martide makes life easier for you - in other ways!
Of course, our Software as a Service does a lot more than just helping you communicate more effectively with your crew and retain their services contract after contract.
We’ll also advertise your vacancies for seafarers for you, give you access to our global talent pool of seamen and women who are looking for jobs at sea, provide you with an applicant tracking system (ATS), make it easier for you to manage interviews and much more.
What to do next
If you’d like to boost your crew retention rates, find qualified seamen to fill your seafarer jobs more quickly and easily, and plan crew and crew change overs more efficiently , get in touch with us now and schedule your no strings attached demo.
And for more crew retention tips and to read about how promoting a culture of diversity and tolerance can also help you boost your crew retention rates, click here.
This blog post was originally published on January 8th 2020 and updated on April 26th 2022.