What Makes a Good Manning Agency in Maritime Recruitment?

Feb 28, 2023 · 18 mins read ·

Maritime Recruitment
crew on the deck of a ship

Image Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign

If you’re a small to medium-sized shipping company who wants to enhance your maritime recruitment operations and you’re either looking to work with a manning agency for the first time or you’re seeking to switch maritime recruitment suppliers you might be wondering what makes a good manning agent.

In this blog post we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know when you’re looking for a new provider of crew.

How to know if you're choosing the right manning agency for maritime recruitment

First of all, when you work with any supplier or provider of goods or services, you want that company to be proactive and responsive so that they fulfill your needs with a minimum of fuss. You also want to make sure that you’re getting good value for money too.

But what are some specific requirements that you need to look out for when  you’re selecting a new crewing shipping agency to work with?

Let’s take a look, but first of all, for anyone who isn’t 100% sure, let’s briefly cover what a manning agency actually is and does.

What is a manning agency?

A manning agency is a company working in the maritime industry that provides the following functions to a shipping company, principal or shipowner:

  • They advertise your seafarer job vacancies
  • They receive and appraise applications from candidates
  • They propose seafaring candidates to the shipping company or principal
  • They arrange visa and medical tests and documents for seafarers who are hired
  • They arrange most of the local procedures or requirements for seafarers who are joining a vessel

To sum it up and in the words of the International Chamber of Shipping, a manning agency “is generally understood as providing ‘recruitment and placement services’ as referred to in the MLC, 2006.”

A hijab-wearing woman working in a seafarer job and standing on deck at sunset
Image Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign

So as a shipowner, principal, or employer what else can you expect from a professional manning agency?

What guidelines should a manning agency adhere to?

When it comes to working with a professional agency for your ships’ crewing needs, there are a number of boxes you need to check. For example, your manning agency should adhere to the following maritime recruitment guidelines:

  • They should ensure that flag State laws of vessels are met, particularly in regards to crew certificates, qualifications and ranks
  • They should also ensures that the same laws are satisfied concerning crew tax, employment regulations and social insurance
  • They must hold insurance policies covering indemnity exposure, and crew accident and protection
  • They should provide training for cadets which results in new crew achieving their IMO Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) certificates of competency
  • They should also appraise the training offered to, and needed by, their seafarers and implement both ashore and onboard training
  • They should undertake an administrative role in regards to crew including travel arrangements to and from vessels, payroll, applications for leave, and medical needs

How to choose the right manning agency for your maritime crewing needs

It goes without saying that as a shipowner or employer of seafarers, you want to choose the best maritime recruitment agency for your particular needs.

But not all ships crewing providers are the same and who you choose to work with will depend on your requirements and your business model.

Let’s take a look at the three main types of manning agency as defined by the IMO.

Employment business manning agency

This type of manning agent will select crew on behalf of your shipping company much in the same way that a temp agency provides agency staff for a set period of time in a land-based job.

Crew members working in a job at sea on a commercial ship

Employment business manning agencies are usually regarded as the seafarers’ employer, despite them being supplied to another company. In Europe, this includes when it is specified in accordance with the EU Directive on Temporary Agency Work.

Hiring hall manning agency

A hiring hall manning agency is an organization that usually falls under a labor union’s authority. They supply seafarers to an employer with a collective bargaining agreement with the union. Depending on the terms of a contract with a union, it can be either voluntary or compulsory for an employer to use a hiring hall.

If it is compulsory, this can render the employer a “closed shop” as any potential crew members will have to join the union before they can be hired.

Under this type of maritime recruitment, the hiring hall places the onus on a union to make sure that its seafarers are responsible people who adhere to union standards and are appropriately qualified before they are provided to the employer.

Hiring halls are useful if you as an employer need to find skilled and qualified crew quickly. Another plus is that the union will take care of seafarers’ qualifications and eligibility requirements as well as individual employment records.

Introductory agency manning agents

In shipping crewing an introductory agency is responsible for submitting seafarer resumes, CVs or job applications to the employer to review. They may also conduct interviews on the employer’s behalf.

Introductory agencies can fall outside of the MLC, 2006 definition of a maritime recruitment and placement service, however.

Checklist for finding a maritime crewing supplier

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. If you’re a shipowner or ship manager looking for a maritime recruitment partner you not only want someone who will be finding you the best seafarers, you also want someone who goes above and beyond and meets your own high standards.

Five yellow stars on a pink and blue background

Take a look at our checklist for finding the right ships’ crew supplier below and ask yourself if any potential partners you’re weighing up adhere to the following:

  • They can provide you with a list of clients that you can ask for feedback or references
  • They are licensed by the appropriate national authority or regulated by national laws or regulations, or they operate to national legal standards that are effectively enforced
  • They are open and transparent in the way they do business
  • They are responsive and happy to resolve issues or answer questions
  • They have both good client and seafarer retention rates
  • They are able to validate the certificates held by the seafarers they offer you
  • They offer 24/7 support either by phone, email or via a support website
  • They are International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified or
  • Tanker Management and Self-Assessment (TMSA) vetted
  • They offer you a certain amount of choice when they provide you with potential candidates
  • They are willing to accommodate your specific needs and do so in a timely manner
  • They can prove that they handle data responsibly and comply with respective data protection laws such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • They are willing to answer any questions and comply with an audit process, should there be one
A topiary question mark on a patch of sand in the ocean

Being able to check off all the points in the above list will give you greater confidence that you’re working with a professional and competent team. However, here are a few more things you should also be looking for:

  • Do they describe their remuneration, T’s & C’s, responsibilities and role clearly?
  • Do they have clear policies in place to ensure candidates aren’t discriminated against due to race, age, gender etc?
  • Do they adopt a hassle-free approach to replacing a seafarer at the end of their contract with a replacement?
  • Do they accurately describe your jobs and only offer genuine vacancies?
  • Are their contracts clear with the ability to agree appropriate break clauses?
  • Can they demonstrate knowledge of any relevant flag and labor supply state laws?

There are a couple of red flags that you should also pay attention to. Manning agencies who charge seafarers an administrative cost or a recruitment or placement fee should be avoided. It is legal to charge for services as listed under the MLC, 2006 however.

As should companies who blacklist seafarers, particularly those who might have raised a complaint or concern under the MLC, 2006 or a health and safety issue.

Looking for a reputable partner to help with maritime recruitment?

At Martide we can help solve all your maritime crewing related issues quickly and easily. Advertise your seafarer job vacancies with us via online job adverts that are branded with your logo, dip into our global talent pool of qualified seafarer candidates, and work with our accredited and trusted manning agencies.

Bonus: when it comes to manning agents - we take care of all the checks and auditing for you, saving you time, hassle and money!

Better still, our maritime recruitment platform is so much more than just a seafarer job website - we’re a crewing system software solution too.

An advert for Martide's maritime recruitment and maritime crew management system software

What that means for your small to mid-sized shipping company is that you can manage your candidates and hired seafarers from the moment they apply for one of your jobs and throughout the hiring process to the moment they need to disembark from your vessel for a crew change.

Want to find out more about how we can help you increase efficiency and streamline your maritime recruitment process as well as your crew management ops? Contact us today and schedule your free, no-strings attached demo.

Eve Church

Eve Church

Eve is Martide's content writer, publishing regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea. Eve has been writing professionally for more than two decades, crafting everything from SEO-focused blog posts and website landing pages to magazine articles and corporate whitepapers.


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