Pros & Cons of Using Manning Agents for Maritime Recruitment
Jan 24, 2023 · 12 mins read ·Maritime Recruitment
As well as helping small to medium-sized shipowners and ship managers streamline your maritime recruitment and crew planning operations, part of what we do here at Martide is to find out what makes the recruiters, planners, managers and owners of the companies we work with tick.
When we first started to think about creating our crewing system software and recruitment platform we had many in depth and interesting conversations with several of our potential clients.
And it was during these meetings that we came to the conclusion that the majority of shipping companies were still outsourcing their seafarer sourcing and crewing operations.
But there’s more. Because in addition to that, some companies weren't considering the additional cost of doing so.
We know just as well as you do that maritime recruitment, tracking your applicants, managing expenses, storing documents securely and legally, handling contracts and seafarer documents, and planning crew changes can come with a very unique set of challenges.
And it is understandable, and precisely why, some shipowners take the decision to hand some of the aspects of crew recruitment and management over to specialized providers of crew, AKA manning agents.
Now whether you currently work with one or more manning agencies or you’re considering finding an easier way to alleviate some of the burden from your maritime recruitment officers, what do you need to know about outsourcing seafarer recruitment?
Image Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign
Let’s take a look.
Pros & cons of outsourcing maritime recruitment ops to a manning agent
Like everything in life, and especially when it comes to business, there are pros and cons that need to be carefully weighed up before you make any kind of decision.
And to be able to make an informed decision, you need to be able to take a clear look at the facts.
Whether you’re thinking about finding a new manning agency to replace an existing supplier, working with an agent for the first time, or ditching the outsourcing completely, here’s what you need to know.
Budgeting for your maritime recruitment operations
First of all, when discussing maritime recruitment and crew planning with other industry professionals when Martide was just an idea, we found that the budgets for in-house crewing activities were rarely discussed - even if the shipping company in question's fleet was experiencing a period of sustainable growth.
Reasons for this varied, including the classic “We've just always done it like this” as well as the recruitment team never really having caught an owner's attention so it remained low key and pretty much flying under the radar.
So one thing we would suggest is to weigh up if outsourcing seafarer recruitment is going to save you money. If you'd like to free up time or capital to allow your shipping company to then be able to pursue other in-house projects, why not run the numbers and perform a potential cost calculation?
Now let’s get into the specifics of using a manning or crewing agency for recruitment. We’ll start with a couple of cons of outsourcing crew recruitment.
Con: It can be hard to find a local manning agency
Thanks to the global nature of shipping, oftentimes you might find that the best manning agents who supply crew aren’t located in the same city, region, or even country as your shipping company.
This means that a potentially huge amount of time, money and effort is needed to be able to identify the right agent and then visit them to discuss your requirements.
Of course, we’re all well versed in video chats, meetings and conference calls these days, but when you’re making such an important decision such as who to trust with finding crew for your vessels, wouldn’t it be nice to set up at least one in-person meeting so you can get a real feel for who you’re dealing with?
Con: Manning agents need to be audited
And while we’re on the subject of expensive and time consuming tasks, once you’ve selected a manning agent or agents that you want to work with, you’ll not only need to establish the correct crewing procedure that works for your specific company, but you’ll need to check and audit your agency.
You don’t need us to tell you that the legal requirements in the shipping industry that need strict compliance can create a huge (and costly) headache.
How many flights a year will you need to book and pay for in order to audit every single agency you work with?
Con: Some manning agencies may not be who they say they are
Talking of audits, finding a manning agency that is ISO certified and follows the IMO guidelines for manning agents can be easier said than done.
There are some less than scrupulous players in this area and while seafarers are notoriously at danger of getting duped by fake agencies, a less than diligent shipowner could also be at risk.
In addition, there is a certain risk in using an agency, even a seemingly reputable one, you've only just discovered even if you're only using them for two or three deck cadets at first. Will you work well together? Are they finding you the best crew for your vessels?
Con: Using multiple manning agents creates admin
If you're using a number of different manning agents to help you fill your empty seafarer jobs, there are no two ways about it: It's going to result in a significant amount of administrative work to be tackled by the recruitment officer or crewing manager.
Not only that but using multiple manning agents also means learning and using all of their different processes which they use for onboarding seafarers. And think of all the paperwork!
And as mentioned, equally important, these agencies have to be audited on a regular basis to ensure their service quality, which overall is immensely time-consuming and expensive for your shipping company.
Pro: Manning agents often have a bigger candidate database
If your maritime recruitment officers struggle to fill certain ranks or positions, having a manning agency with a huge pool of seafarers at the tip of their fingers can be an absolute life saver.
When a crew change date is fast approaching but your Chief Engineer has either ghosted you halfway through the hiring process, fallen ill, or defected to one of your competitors, what do you do if there’s no one else available?
You pick up the phone and call your manning agent for an urgent replacement.
Pro: Manning agents can step in in times of need
Similar to the above, if you’re suddenly under pressure due to staff sickness or vacations in your office, it can be incredibly useful to have a manning agency who is just a phone call away.
After all, you never know when staff absences will strike and if you find yourself one, two, or even more recruitment officers down, it will provide huge peace of mind knowing that you can call upon a manning agency.
You might not even use an agent as par for the course, but having one on speed dial is never a bad idea!
Pro: Manning agents can take care of admin
Hate having to validify all those certificates that seafarer candidates need to provide? Don’t have the time or resources in your busy maritime recruitment department to deal with the mountains of paperwork? Your manning agent will do that for you.
A good manning agency will also be flexible in terms of what they offer your shipping company and be able to meet your individual needs, helping to alleviate some of the pressures your recruitment and crew planning teams face.
They are also obligated to accurately describe the terms and conditions and remuneration for employment to seafarers, relieving your staff of the need to do so and eliminating misunderstandings.
How Martide can help your shipping company
We’ve looked at the pros and cons of outsourcing your seafarer recruitment to a manning agent and we hope that’s provided you with some food for thought.
And while there might be a couple of cons associated with working with a crewing agency, we firmly believe that the pluses outweigh the minuses.
Even better, we’ve come up with some ways to circumvent those cons through our maritime recruitment and crewing system!
That’s because, when you work with Martide, your shipping company gains access to a multinational pool of audited manning agents within our Approved Partner Network.
All you need to do is register an account with Martide and you can then standardize your crewing process with our custom tools, select manning agents on a global scale, and recruit seafarers within minutes.
Better still, this is what you get from choosing Martide’s manning agent partners:
- A worldwide selection of manning agents and therefore global selection of crew
- We audit all our approved manning agents, eliminating the time and expense for you
- A sensible pricing tariff and the ability to pick and choose what features you require
- One centralized system to deal with all agents so there’s no switching to different platforms
Plus, with no fixed costs, access to the platform can be charged per seafarer per month. And to reduce your workload to a minimum we make sure to include your expectations into our yearly audits.
Ultimately this means you have access to a pool of multinational crew, filtered to your specifications, and audited by the Martide office professionals.
Focus on growing your shipping company, not on administration!
If you'd like to have a chat about potential cooperation and are interested in streamlining your maritime recruitment department with a crew management system that works, let's talk.
Get in touch with Martide today and we'll be happy to set up a demo at a time that's convenient for you.
This blog post was originally published on December 26th 2019 and updated on January 24th 2023.
Eve is Martide's content writer and publishes regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea.