Mariners, just like the rest of the world must look for jobs and keep them in order to pay their bills, take care of their families, and advance their careers. In the current OSV market, the amount of working vessels has been greatly reduced over the past few years. Although talk of an impending recovery is almost daily, to date, no real improvement has been shown in the job market. With the new STCW amendments and the requirement under the Maritime Labor Convention, the cultural shifts on board are much more prevalent than in the past. Even with the downturn in the market, new people are entering the job market everyday and it is important that operators be able to explain to newcomers the skills and coping mechanisms necessary to survive in this industry.
A recent survey conducted was asking current offshore workers what skill sets and equipment are necessary for joining a vessel.
Top of the list seems to be a sense of humor and patience. Now, anyone who has worked in this industry long enough gets that. And traditionally these traits have been brushed aside as personality traits. Recent studies have shown however that Emotional Intelligence (EI) training, especially at the management level can assist in cultivating a culture on board that is conducive to productivity and to safer operations. Training in Emotional Intelligence is a system whereby students learn to recognize emotional responses and work within themselves to prevent the Limbic (or emotional) portion of the brain from taking control whereby personnel are being ruled by emotion and not by reason.
In almost all marine environments that I have personally been in, the strong swallow the week. Training personnel in to how to guide newer employees by focused instruction and not through the use of the whip and carrot system represents a huge cultural shift, but the benefits to new crew members is monumental. And if that crew member wishes to keep returning, the company has someone who is happy and already trained on board, thus saving money in hiring someone who is already trained.
But this all comes at a cost to the company initially. Management level officers need to be trained in to how to properly break in new recruits. Much like breaking in the engine on a new sports car, if a new recruit is not trained properly from the start they will develop bad habits and become a liability instead of an asset.
All that being said a new hire needs to be instructed in doctrine of personal accountability. The ability to ask for advice and admit that they do not know something, instead of gun decking a job is a huge safety concern. A living mariner can be trained properly, a dead one can only be buried.
Another skill set that is being found to be invaluable on smaller OSV’s is the ability to cook. Under the Maritime Labor Convention cooks are required to be able to cook a wide variety of dishes to fit dietary, religious, and cultural requirements. This ability provides a prospective employee the ability to get on the job and be of use to the vessel. Smaller vessels alternate duties from time to time among crew. Having someone who can easily provide is a great bonus to a boat.
Basic Mechanical knowledge can be of tremendous benefit to any new hire. Someone who has never had the opportunity to turn a wrench or is afraid of getting dirty may not be the best fit for the industry. Even deck side personnel maintain equipment and someone with even a rudimentary familiarity with tools will be a step ahead of the uninformed.
New mariners should also be informed of what is expected of them to be in their sea bag. Many new mariners in the market do not realize that seasickness is possible on an OSV. New employees may not be prepared with the proper medication. Reminding new hires to have on board some non-drowsy motion sickness medication may help avoid a medical discharge from a vessel.
Basic tools such as a sturdy work clothing, white and red lens flashlight, knife, cheap sunglasses, chapstick, mulit tools, travel power adapters, phone cards, steel toed boots, reliable watch, alarm clock, working clothing, and toiletries are things that the professional mariner takes for granted, however the polywog may not even think to carry such items with them for the first time at sea. Any medication carried, should be carried for at least the length of the contract plus a few weeks.
Once on board the training of a new employee is critical to successful and safe operations. Employees with a background in construction may understand the safe operation of cranes, however the ability to operate a crane on a moving platform is a different skill. Knowledge of vessel procedures for fire, emergency, and abandon ship are taken for granted, but new mariners do not have any background beyond basic STCW training can be very intimidated by the scope and severity of it all.
The maritime industry is very complex and can be very intimidating for the newly initiated. A good company will take the time to not only train their new hires, but spend the time and effort and continuously training their long term employees. Especially those at management level. The longer that an employee is rotating on and off the same vessel, or stays within the company at the very least, not only does that mariner have a sense of job satisfaction and loyalty, but there is also the familiarity of operations allowing them to be confident in their work.
Whatever a vessel owner does is eventually dealt with on board by both the new hire and the long term employees. Ensuring their well being and job satisfaction, while a very foreign concept in this industry, has had very long term effects in Japanese auto makers, US beverage companies, etc. It is worth the consideration of this industry.