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It was not surprising that attendance of this conference was subject to some discussion amongst the international speakers and delegates due to the political situation in the Ukraine in recent weeks and months. However, one of the many benefits of our network of branches around the world is that we can get first hand information of the real situation in a country rather than trying to glean it from press reports which have a tendency to sensationalise events and escalate them throughout a country. Odessa was as calm and peaceful as one would wish even though political concerns were never far away. Nevertheless, the international attendance was less than last year which is understandable but those who decided not to come missed a worthwhile conference and the excellent Ukrainian hospitality, for which thanks are given wholeheartedly to our hosts.
The conference and exhibition was well attended and our Branch members, ably led as ever by Professor Torskiy - Hon Secretary, were kept busy on the display stand throughout the two days. It was good to see young male and female members engaging with the many cadets and junior officer visitors as well as the cadets from the Odessa National Maritime Academy (ONMA) attending the conference, thanks to the generous sponsorship of theTK Foundation. This group from the navigation and maritime law faculties contributed well to the discussion sessions as well as during the lunch/coffee breaks and the gala dinner. At the latter, students from the ONMA and the Conservatoire of Music put on an excellent cultural show which was further enlivened with some competitions for the attendees. One of these was to create a cocktail from the relatively limited choice of drinks on the table. It was with great surprise that the Institute's creation won. The recipe for the'DP Fixer'is available for the daring as we didn't even taste it ourselves!
After the customary official greetings to open the conference, the ONMA Rector, Professor Mykhaylo Miyusov, moderated the first session. Captain Kuba Szymanski FNI, Secretary General of Intermanager set the tone for the two days in his usual lively and engaging fashion while promoting the benefits of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). He concentrated on KPIs about the people in an organisation and explained the Intermanager-led process of developing KPIs for the industry, asking 'Do you know your retention rate? 'and' Howdoyou benchmark your company against competitors?' He drew clear connections between an effective safetyculture ('Do you know your Lost Time Injury rate? What is the target figure?'- and 'How do you intend achieving it?'), training and the health and happiness of employees. In summary, look after them and know how you are doing so, and they will help your business to succeed.
Development of seafarers
Gregory Galankis, MD of Epsilon Hella, the General Partner of the event, took a look at the major changes to selection and development of seafarers in recent decades. He asserted that STCW had done much to set and improve standards in this area since the 1978 Convention and that advanced training centres incorporating state-of-the-art simulators had resulted. Evaluation and assessment systems and psychometric tests had been developed for training of seafarers ashore. However, the time is now right to focus on training onboard and take advantage of its great benefits without diminishing the importance of good shore based systems.To achieve effective training onboard requires that all conditions - operational, living, social, and special - must be considered first and the training carefully planned to take account of them. He gave the view that technology should be used to create and store the training record of all seafarers so that it can be accessed by those that need to assess or employ the person. This concept fits neatly with the Institute's Continuing Professional Development (CPD) web portal and will surely be embraced by more marine administrations and companies in the future.
The representative of MSC Ukraine, standing in for MSC Shipmanagement Cyprus, related his representation on the company to Kuba's KPIs in terms of the benefits of working for the company and the effect of MLC 2006 on seafarer welfare provisions. Broadband access is provided on all owned ships (140 out of a managed fleet of 450) together with a range of other benefits such as medical insurance, gym on board, seminars for sea and shore staff, and a family atmosphere. Retention at 89% is most affected by loss to the offshore sector and he admitted that voyage contracts continue to be used extensively as they are in 70% of the industry. However, MSC seeks to arrange the next contract whilst the personnel are on their current voyage.
Empathic leadership
Bogdan Zelenskiy, President of Alpha Navigation refreshingly asserted that good communications start with the office, based on knowledge of their people. Today's social media resources are very helpful in this regard.
However, this connectivity can also cause problems for those away from their friends and family for long periods. The Master needs to be an empathic leader combining good listening, rapport with the crew, and keen observation, particularly of behavourial change, so as to act when necessary. Continuing this people oriented theme, Hendrik Jensen of Danica Maritime Services contended that 95% of regulations are technology rather than human focused, and yet 80% of accidents are assessed as human error related. Even the SMS section of the ISM Code is 80% technical. It was therefore crucial that companies assessed personality and competency aspects of employees to ensure that they can work under stressful conditions which are unavoidable at sea and he recommended pre-employment screening.
Simon Pressly FNI, Group Director Crew Management for V Ships and responsible for some 45,000 seafarers, gave a powerful endorsement for mentoring on board ,while acknowledging that there are now many subjects that require additional training and on board training is complementary to formal education and training ashore, not a substitute for it. It is a management responsibility to ensure this training can be delivered via a variety of means - computer, videos, simulators, drills and one to one. There is a shortage of time for the ship's crew to impart this training themselves, so V Ships employs a system of'on board trainers'moving from ship to ship. They carry out an audit initially to identify needs and are typically on board for 7 to 12 days.
After an update on Ukraine's lack of ratification of the MLC 2006, from a partner of ANK Law Firm, and the problems this is likely to cause owners and crewing agents, there was a lively discussion forum focusing on mentoring and the importance of sharing knowledge. Some contended that the older generation is no longer interested in helping the younger generation whilst others maintained that if younger officers show interest they will get a willing response. Concerns were expressed about the quality of the underlying education of some recruits, especially from some Asian countries, which made adding the professional knowledge more difficult.The attending cadets participated well in the forum and it was clear that they looked forward to a worthwhile career while understanding the challenges and sacrifices it would entail.
Training systems
The second day focused on maritime education, training and certification with major presentations on training systems from the ONMA Rector and the Institute's Chief Executive, the latter on the Dynamic Positioning Operator training scheme managed by the Institute for the offshore industry. The Rector was forthright in supporting the needs for high professional standards and the training required to deliver them. He identified the pace of change in the industry as challenging for the training sector especially in terms of investment in the latest equipment. It was clear from the questions that there is a great deal of interest in DP training in the Black Sea region. Support for the Institute-led international standard remains strong despite the emergence of alternative certification suppliers. Clarification was sought on the need for revalidation of DP certificates every five years but the move was supported as being necessary to maintain standards.
Simulation trends
Andrey Sitkov, Simulation Business Division Director for Transas Marine International, gave an excellent presentation on the future trends and challenges in maritime simulation. He looked at the macro-economic trends as well as regulated and non-regulated training. Refreshingly, this was not a hard sell forTransas products and services, but identified the fast changing technology in this area over the past 20 years. The rate of development will clearly continue apace into the future with many simulation products now available from the internet Cloud at relatively low cost.
The human side
Matt Gasparich, President of Maritime Training Services, and Dr Peter Swift, Chairman of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program (MPHRP - which is actively supported by the Institute), returned the focus to the people at sea. Matt maintained that a data centred approach is best suited to ensuring successful employment, with generic and rank specific criteria for assessment helping to guard against personal bias, racism and other issues. Training needs are identified and strategic use of staff aided. Peter explained the role of the MPHRP before, during and after piracy incidents and emphasised that the families of seafarers often need as much assistance as the seafarers themselves. Whilst pleased that the incidence of piracy off Somalia is greatly reduced, he expressed concern that this may lead to less government and management action and hence increase the danger to seafarers again as the underlying causes of piracy in the region have yet to be addressed. Equally, it should not be forgotten that Somalia is but one area where the problem exists and that there is no let up in the dangers off West Africa.
English language skills
The final presentation was on maritime education, specifically the teaching of English language skills, from Olga Monastyrskaya and Marina Chesnokova of ONMA. It was pleasing that they clearly use many Nautical Institute publications in their work and their presentation had borrowed images from the Institute's website to emphasise the importance of professional development and situational awareness. This presentation led naturally onto a working group discussion on recruitment and retention which identified that there is much competition for career minded young people so the quality of intake to the maritime industry was deemed to be falling. Thinking back some decades to my intake, I am not convinced we were any different to today's recruits and I suspect each generation considers the younger one to be inferior in one way or another. However, there was consensus that the seafaring career is less attractive these days with the excitement of foreign travel easily acquired with
low cost air travel versus short port stays and ever increasing regulation. In conclusion, it was deemed to be essential to nurture a professional mindset, rather than implying that just doing the job is enough, and that some form of psychometric testing is useful in selecting people that will find the career fulfilling. Equally, retention is greatly enhanced by offering a lifestyle expected by young people today. This certainly includes broadband connectivity - and yet a great many owners still do not provide this. Fair treatment of seafarers by the authorities, employers and senior sea staff was also identified as a key factor and one that is all too often sadly lacking. The best employers were those that had reward schemes in place with real support for their seafarers and their families through a career structure rather than voyage contracts. To those of an older generation this may sound familiar as company loyalty.
Philip Wake FNI
CEO, The Nautical Institute

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