THE IMPACT OF SHIP CREWS ON MARITIME SAFETY

THE IMPACT OF SHIP CREWS ON MARITIME SAFETY

ABSTRACT
Modern shipping is a highly international, multicultural and technological industry with
strong demands on economic efficiency and profitability. The ship crews are multinational
and a growing number of crewmembers come from emerging seafaring nations, such as the
Philippines and China. Despite advances in technology, some 80 % of all accidents are,
according to studies, caused by human error. This literature review focuses on safety issues
related to the crews and gives examples of what kinds of errors are the most common to
happen. Intercultural cooperation, communication, fatigue and the language skills of a
seafarer are the most important issues that contribute to maritime safety on the individual
level. The results show that more training in understanding other cultures is needed. Also
improvements in teaching English to seafarers are suggested. The final chapter presents
possible information sources for studying crew competences in the Baltic Sea, which is a
field of study not yet covered at all.
TIIVISTELMÄ
Nykyajan merenkulku on kansainvälinen, monikulttuurinen sekä teknisesti kehittynyt
teollisuuden ala, johon kohdistuvat suuret tehokkuus- ja kannattavuusvaatimukset. Alusten
miehistöt ovat monikansallisia ja monet lähtöisin uusista merenkulkumaista kuten
Filippiineiltä ja Kiinasta. Vaikka tekniikka aluksilla on kehittynyt, eivät onnettomuudet ole
vähentyneet samassa suhteessa ja jopa 80 % merenkulkuonnettomuuksista johtuu
inhimillisistä syistä. Tässä kirjallisuuskatsauksessa perehdytään miehistöistä johtuviin
turvallisuuskysymyksiin ja pohditaan, millaisia onnettomuuksia inhimillinen virhe
yleisimmin aiheuttaa. Kulttuurienvälinen vuorovaikutus, väsymys, kommunikaatio sekä
kielitaito ovat tärkeimmät miehistöistä johtuvat turvallisuustekijät. Tutkimukset osoittavat,
että tarvitaan lisäkoulutusta liittyen monikulttuurisuuden ymmärtämiseen. Myös
miehistöjen kielitaidon, erityisesti englannin, parantamista ehdotetaan. Viimeisessä
kappaleessa esitellään mahdollisia tietolähteitä aiheen tutkimiseksi Itämeren alueella, josta
tutkimustietoa miehistöjen pätevyyksistä ei ole lainkaan.
CONTENTS:
1 INTRODUCTION……………………………………………………………………………………………7
1.1 Aim of study ………………………………………………………………………………………………….8
2 GENERAL BACKGROUNDS ……………………………………………………………………….10
2.1 International crew markets……………………………………………………………………………..11
2.2 Definitions …………………………………………………………………………………………………..12
2.2.1 Registers and Flags of convenience ……………………………………………………………12
2.2.2 Classification of flag states ……………………………………………………………………….12
2.2.2 Crew Competence ……………………………………………………………………………………13
2.2.3 The human factor …………………………………………………………………………………….13
2.3 Ownership of the world fleet ………………………………………………………………………….14
2.4 Examples of crew supply to the market – the Philippines and China ……………………15
3 LEGISLATION CONCERNING MANNING AND CREW COMPETENCE ….19
3.1 International Maritime Organization (IMO): the SOLAS and the STCW conventions
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….19
3.2 The European Union……………………………………………………………………………………..20
3.3 National regulations………………………………………………………………………………………20
4 SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS STUDIES CONCERNING CREW AND SAFETY
ISSUES ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….22
4.1 Cultural factors as a matter of safety ……………………………………………………………….26
4.1.1 The theory of cultural dimensions………………………………………………………………26
4.1.2 Examples of cultural dimensions affecting maritime safety …………………………..27
4.2 Communication…………………………………………………………………………………………….29
4.2.1 Maritime English……………………………………………………………………………………..31
4.4 Masculinity ………………………………………………………………………………………………….31
4.5 Training……………………………………………………………………………………………………….32
4.6 Motivation and attitudes towards safety of crew members …………………………………33
4.7 Crew-related organizational factors that affect maritime safety…………………………..33
5 CONCLUSIONS ……………………………………………………………………………………………35
6 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDIES ………………………………………………….37
6.1 Suggestions for sources of information about crews and manning in the Baltic Sea
area:……………………………………………………………………………………………………………37
6.1.1 Portnet ……………………………………………………………………………………………………37
6.1.2 GOFREP…………………………………………………………………………………………………38
6.1.3 Accident reports and near miss reports……………………………………………………….38
6.1.4 Authorities and organizations…………………………………………………………………….38
REFRENCES……………………………………………………………………………………………………….39
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 7
1 INTRODUCTION
World trade is dependent on shipping (Manuel 2011). Shipping is one of the most
globalised industries in the world economy and the leading means of transport (Ljung 2010;
Gekara 2008). In total, about 80 percent of foreign trade is made by marine transport (e.g.
European Union 2009). Shipping is a highly international, multicultural and technological
industry and it faces strong demands on economic efficiency and profitability (HanzuPazara et al 2010; Ljung 2010). This has lead to a globalized labor market of seafarers and
to ship crews that are more and more multinational (Picture 1). The change in the labor
market has been particularly dramatic for Japanese and European seafarers. They have been
used to steady and regulated work conditions, which is not the case anymore (Lane 1997).
Multiculturalism is a general feature of crews of today and in this languages play a crucial
role (Silos et al 2012). About 70-80 % of world’s merchant fleet has multicultural crews
(Magramo & Cellada 2009; Pyne & Koester 2005). Multicultural crews and a possible lack
of a common language have produced a rising worry of the competence of ship crews.
Globalization has also lead to major changes in ownerships as shipping companies grow
internationally. Ideally this could further lead to a more organized training of professional
crews in all ranks and nationalities (Lane 1999). The question remains if this is the case. Do
more agents cause a more diverse culture of different degrees and qualifications? This is of
crucial interest especially when technological advances have cut down the number of
crewmembers, from what used to be 40-50 to about 20-25 even on large carriers (Ljung
2010).
Figure 1.1. An example of the international character of shipping. Applied after Sampson, 2003a in Gekara
(2008). Base map from http://www.starlighttours.fi/slt/.
8 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
The image (Fig. 1.1) shows clearly how globally distributed the industry is. It is an example
of how a ship can be owned in one country, have the crew from another, have the cargo
owned by a third one etc. (Gekara 2008). Usually the ship is owned by a company in a
highly developed low cost labor country and the crew is from a third world nation, as the
picture clearly shows.
The worry of maritime safety has caused a growing demand for research in what kinds of
competences the crews operating the seas have. The question is inevitable especially when
it concerns areas with a high risk of accidents. The Baltic Sea is an area with a lot of traffic
and shallow waters. The concern for competent crews able to handle their ships in the
difficult conditions characteristic to the area is evident. When discussing the emerging
heteronomy of mariners, Wu & Sampson (2005) suggest some structural factors that need
to be taken into account. Firstly, there is a strong demand from the global labor market, a
rising number of crew recruitment agencies and also a growth of seafaring salaries in recent
years. The research of the advantages and disadvantages of international crews is of
growing interest (Pyne & Koester 2005).
1.1 Aim of study
This report has been written as a part of the research project CAFE (Competitive
Advantage by Safety). The aim of the CAFE project is to examine whether the maritime
sector can achieve a competitive advantage by focusing on safety aspects. The major focus
is on operational safety, which is expected to both directly and indirectly influence the
opportunities in the competitive European surface transport sector.
The CAFE- project is a three year study that started in October 2010 and will end in 2013.
The CAFE project is funded by the European Union European Regional Development
Fund, the ERDF program for Southern Finland, the City of Kotka, Varustamosäätiö, Kotka
Maritime Research Centre corporate group: Aker Arctic Technology Inc., the Port of
HaminaKotka, the Port of Helsinki, Kristina Cruises Ltd, Meriaura Ltd. and done in
collaboration with project partners being the Kotka Maritime Research Centre, the Centre
for Maritime Studies at the University of Turku, Kymenlaakso University of Applied
Sciences, Turku University of Applied Sciences and Aalto University. This report has been
written by Nora Berg, a trainee in the Centre for Maritime Studies of the University of
Turku under the supervision of project manager Jenni Storgård and researcher Jouni
Lappalainen.
This literature review is closely related to the working package 2 of the CAFE-project,
where the aim is to create a conceptual safety management model for the maritime field. In
the model the most crucial factors in safety management are evaluated and a model for
efficiently improving these factors is created. The report focuses on the competences of
crews of ships operating in the Baltic Sea. The research question for this review is:
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 9
How does the composition of the crew affect the safety on board a merchant ship according
to literature? Does the growing amount of multinational crews affect the communication on
board and so the maritime safety?
The aim of this study is to give an overview of the literature and studies so far published
about the subject of how crews affect maritime safety. The main question will be to which
extent the crew affects maritime safety, and it will be used as a basis for further studies.
The knowledge of crews is crucial as it contributes to a more accurate picture about
shipping and human factor related deficiencies in the Baltic Sea. A large number of studies
were covered, with the main emphasis on journal articles and reviews published after year
2000.
10 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
2 GENERAL BACKGROUNDS
There are several reasons for why the seafarers of today appear to be among the pawns of
globalization. One reason is that the demand for logistics is global due to markets that do
not care about borders. That crews have become part of a global market is inevitably a
question of money. A study published in Marine Policy (Silos et al 2012) states that it is
hard for the owner to regulate fuel, insurance and port dues among others whereas crew
costs are regarded as “variable costs” and can therefore be reduced by the owner. Also a
new philosophy arising in the sector states that vessel maintenance has become a lower
priority.
According to Silos et al., the cost of the crew is about 15 % of the total costs of handling a
ship. According to Stopford (2009), the crew cost can be up to 42 % of the ships operating
costs. The operating cost of a ship varies according to the ship’s age and size and the
nationality of the crew. It can vary between about 20 and 40 % of the total operating costs
depending on the age of the ship. Other operating costs consist of maintenance, insurance,
stores and other general costs. These operating costs are about 14-16 % (depending on the
age of the vessel) of the total costs for running a vessel. Crew costs also vary according to
the Flag of the ship. Stopford (2009) states that a crew member sailing on a vessel under the
European flag can cost twice as much as a vessel registered under an “open” flag such as
Liberia, Panama or Singapore.
Another reason for the growing numbers of international crews is the social aspect. The
rising standard of living in the industrialized countries, such as Western Europe, the US and
Japan causes changes is the global maritime market for seafarers. When a country
undergoes economic growth, it will require migrant labor. This is because its citizens have
more possibilities for education and therefore a chance for advancement in careers. This
results in a shortage of labor doing certain types of jobs, the so called 3-D: dirty, dangerous
and difficult (Galam 2011).
The recruitment of seafarers has become a major problem for shipping (Ljung 2011). A
study made by Tsamourgelis (2009) states that even if seafarers from OECD11
countries are
better examples of employees in terms of efficiency and loyalty, the companies prefer
seafarers from other countries because they want to maximize profits in terms of wages.

1 OECD countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States
OECD 2012. List of membership countries. Available online at
http://www.oecd.org/document/58/0,3746,en_2649_201185_1889402_1_1_1_1,00.html. Accessed 16.5.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 11
Also the fact that the time that vessels spend in port is cut to minimum, the decreasing sizes
of crews and a growing list of responsibilities has made the profession of seaman less and
less attractive for OECD country citizens (Silos et al 2012). In any case, OECD1
seafarers
are still employed as officers and are highly appreciated in those positions. Some reasons
for OECD seafarers to stay in the industry in spite of all are the salary and job satisfaction
(Ljung 2011).
In recent years, the shipping industry has encountered major changes. Internationalization
and the increase of technological instruments on board the ships have changed the industry
a great deal. To maintain the level of safety, the crew needs to be trained, which requires a
training system capable of adapting to the ongoing, rapid changes. This creates challenges
for the education system. For example, the levels of teaching English are not developed
well enough yet (Hanzu-Pazara & Arsenie 2010).
2.1 International crew markets
Ship operators have largely outsourced the recruiting of crews into crewing agencies in the
third world countries. This is problematic due to the fact that so called paper mill educators
that issue certificates without training exists. There is also a developed market of faked
certificates. This creates a growing challenge in the inspections of maritime educators and a
struggle to achieve effective governance in the training of mariners (Bloor & Sampson
2009).
Migrant workers often encounter work conditions that are monotonous and physically
demanding, working longer hours with lower wages. Immigrant workers may have poor
language skills and worse training which leads to less skilled workers. Discrimination and
poorer socioeconomic conditions are a reality (Grøn & Knudsen 2011).
Failure to report accidents has proven to make accident rates among foreign workers lower.
It is possible that ships captains are not that keen to report accidents of foreigners in fear of
losing personal economic benefits and also because foreigners may not have interest in
having an accident reported, since it might lead to negative consequences (Hansen et al
2008). Immigrant workers suffer from a lack of knowledge of issues in health and safety.
This is also due to the fact that immigrant workers work under less favorable conditions
(Grøn & Knudsen 2011).
12 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
2.2 Definitions
The next chapters presents some essential terms used in this review and their common
definitions:
2.2.1 Registers and Flags of convenience
A register is the ship’s recording of ownership under the authorities and taxation of a
certain country, often referred to the Flag State. The so called Open Registers are registers
of countries with more liberal financial and corporate legislation. These are often referred
to as Flags of Convenience (OECD 2003).
The use of Flags of convenience dates back to the 1970s and was at that time a new way of
cutting costs. A flag of convenience is a state that does not care about nationality
requirements of crews and usually has much lower taxation, such as Panama or Liberia.
Flags of convenience also have lower safety requirements (Couper 1999).
Since the rules for e.g. crewing and their rights, the flags of convenience are considered to
be a problem in the industry. It is notable that great deals of ships registered under the flags
of convenience are anyhow owned by residents of OECD nations that are flag states
themselves (Mansell 2009). The biggest Flags of convenience fleets belong to Panama,
Liberia and The Marshall Islands (Shipping Statistics yearbook 2009).
2.2.2 Classification of flag states
The Paris Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control (MoU) is an organization
of 27 Maritime Authorities participating countries that carries a system of Port State
Control. It keeps a listing of flag states based on inspections done by its certified inspectors
to see that they follow international rules of safety, pollution prevention and seafarers’
living and working conditions. If a flag state continuously fails to fulfill the requirements, it
is possible to ban its access to the MoU region (Paris MoU 2011).
Based on the inspections, countries are listed and classified as white, grey and black. In
2011 a majority of OECD countries, China, Bahamas, Panama, Bermuda, Liberia,
Philippines, Russia and Iraq are among others listed as white flag states, whereas the
poorest performing flags are Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya, Togo, Bolivia
Albania and Sierra Leone. Altogether a total number of 80 flags were listed in the 2011
inspections: 43 on the White list, 20 on the Grey list, and 17 on the Black list (Paris MoU
2012).
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 13
2.2.2 Crew Competence
Competence is generally defined as skills, qualifications and knowledge that gives a person
ability to work as a part of a professional team or, when it comes to maritime activities, a
crew. According to a study conducted by the Seafarer’s International Research Centre
(SIRC) at the end of the 90’s, a lack of crew competence is a growing problem. Proficiency
in English is one clear example. This was apparent from the frequency of pilots using sign
language when communicating with the crew. The use of sign language in the pilot-crew
communication was high in both single national crews where English was not spoken and
in multi-national crews where English skills were not very good (Lane 1999).
The Seafarer’s International Research Centre defines crew competence as “uniform
standard of the provision of high quality training and education opportunities and to be as
least as important as professional training”. It emphasizes the importance of so called
“silent knowledge comprising unwritten roles and attitudes of the seafaring culture. Further,
competence is a mixture of technical and social skill and a place where terminology and
vocabulary are taken for granted” (Lane 1999). As a conclusion, one could say that
competence is a sum of education and experience. . According to Ding & Liang (2005),
competence includes knowledge, skills and understanding in terms of communication, with
emphasis on issues such as fluency in English. Competence also includes physical and
psychological attitudes, including attitudes towards seagoing safety and health standards.
Competence and cost are the two most important factors in the recruitment of seafarers.
Very often the shipowners want labor that is as cheap as possible, with the risk that they are
not sufficiently educated and trained (Ding & Liang 2005).
2.2.3 The human factor
When discussing maritime safety, the term human element or human factor plays a crucial
role. There is no established international definition of the term, but according to IMO
(2004a), it is defined as a “complex issue affecting marine safety and security”. It involves
activities done by the ships’ crews, port operators and authorities among others. This also
makes the human element an important factor in ship design and operation. For example, a
poorly designed ship or a system where the crew is tired or unaware of cultural differences
contributes to the safety of the operation of the ship (IMO 2010). Rothblum (2000)
describes human error to be an incorrect decision, improperly performed action, or an
improper lack of action.
14 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
2.3 Ownership of the world fleet
The OECD countries have the largest share of ownership of the world fleet in tonnage
(figure 2.1), but out of that, 73 % are registered in foreign, mostly open register countries.
This is why the new flag states don’t want to effectively regulate the economic activities of
shipping companies. Due to the globalization of the global markets, companies have
adopted an ability to move labor across national borders using crew management agencies.
There are still some obstacles for the movement of international labor. These are, among
others, cultural and language barriers, variations in education, training and qualification
systems, as well as restrictions to immigration across border (Lauder et al 2006).
The search for cheaper labor has lowered the crew nationality requirements due to the
pressure of finding cheaper seafarers. This can be viewed as a threat for the maritime skills
of crews. Gekara (2008) states that the tightening international regulations force the
companies to be more careful on how they operate their vessels. This means greater efforts
to ensure that crews on ships are well trained and qualified. This and the development since
the 1990s are termed as enforced self regulation in the industry (Bloor et al 2006).
Figure 2.1. World total merchant fleet by country of domicile (ships over 1000 GT). Source: Shipping
statistics yearbook 2009.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 15
Figure 2.2. World supply of seafarers by region. Source: BIMCO & ISF 2010 Manpower update.
Comparing the two graphs, it is clear that the crews come from the Far East or India (Fig.
2.1 & 2.2) whereas the ships originate mainly from OECD nations. Only 24 % of crews are
from the OECD countries, whereas more half of the ships are OECD based. It is notable
that the OECD countries only dominate in bigger ships. When taking into account smaller
ships (300 GT and over), the OECD share is much smaller, whereas the amount of open
register ships increases a great deal. Open register countries include Panama, Liberia,
Marshall Islands, Bahamas, Malta, Cyprus, Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, St. Vincent and
Cayman Islands (Shipping statistics yearbook 2009).
2.4 Examples of crew supply to the market – the Philippines and China
An interesting feature of international crews is the growing amount of Filipino seafarers in
the global market (Table 2.1). According to Philippine authorities in 2009, there were over
330 000 Filipino seafarers employed overseas (POEA 2009). One reason for this is that
overseas employment helps the government of the Philippines to handle the growing
unemployment rates in the country and it also provides income to a rather poor country
(Galam 2011). According to Magramo & Gellada (2009), the amount of Filipinos in the
seafaring market is also going to increase in the future, which is not the least of the impacts
of globalization.
16 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
Table 2.1. The increase of Filipino seafarers from late 1960s to 2009 (after Amante 2005; POEA Overseas
Employment Statistics (2009) in Galam 2011).
The table shows a dramatic increase in the Filipino labor force, especially in the time period
between 2005 to 2009, which is generally seen as a time of global regression. Significant
for Filipinos is that they dominate the lower ranks of crewing. For example, on Japanese
and Greek ships Filipinos form about 40 per cent of lower rankings compared to 14 per cent
of senior officer positions. This is also a question of politics: the Philippine state has
aggressively contributed to maintaining the lower market segment by keeping the basic
minimum wage lower than ILO’s recommendation (Galam 2011).
Another country supplying large amounts of seafarers into the global market is China.
China is one of the emerging providers of global seafarers with a rising amount of crews
that want to work in a multinational environment. Many Chinese seafarers prefer to work
on western ships (Wu & Sampson 2005).
When taking a closer look at the backgrounds of seafarers originating from China and the
Philippines, poverty and rural origin are a common factor in their backgrounds. People
from rural areas are considered to have lesser opportunities than those originating from
cities. Those who join large crewing agencies in the search of a job abroad are the ones
with better command in English and more experience from the field (Zhao & Amante
2003).
According to the Philippine Maritime Training Council, there are almost 100 Maritime
Training institutions in the country (Philippine Maritime Training Council 2012). In the
Philippines a majority of the facilities are private, whereas in China the maritime education
sector is highly state-owned and much smaller. The fact that maritime training facilities in
the Philippines are owned by private entrepreneurs and that some of their owners are
involved in politics can contribute to the fact they attract other kinds of interest than
educational. This is due to a lack of funding of the maritime education in both countries. It
takes altogether about 14 years in both countries to get a formal maritime officer degree (in
the Philippines, 10 years of compulsory education + 4-5 years of maritime training, in
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 17
China the respective numbers are 12 + 1,5 years ) (Zhao & Amante 2003). This is a little
less compared for example to Finland (table 2.2) where maritime education takes up to 7
years (3 + 4 for those going to high school).
Table 2.2. Years of education required for a maritime officer degree in example countries.
Level of education
Country Compulsory Maritime Total
China 12 1,5-2 13-14
The
Philippines
10 4-5 14-15
Finland 9 7 (3+4)
vocational/lower
maritime+ officer
16
The
Netherlands
12-14 1-4 years vocational
training for lower ranks,
3-5 years
university/polytechnic
13-19
The table shows a very small variation in the education of seafarers among countries. The
major difference is that in Finland it is possible to have seven years of training if the person
chooses to take the lower ranks first before the officer training. Since the education systems
vary a great deal, especially in the Netherlands, precise comparisons are extremely difficult
to make (European Commission 2008).
Due to the history of American colonization of the Philippines, the proficiency in English is
considered to be an absolute advantage and the reason for the Filipino seafarers to remain
the leading provider of seafarers in the global market. A good deal of courses and course
material are offered in English. The case in China is unfortunately not so good. Poorer
skills in English prevent Chinese seafarers from getting employment on foreign ships. The
level of education in Chinese training facilities has said to be very good, whereas in the
Philippines it varies a great deal depending on the facility. In both countries students have
to pay high fees (about $ 1200/semester compared to a monthly income of $ 280 for a
peasant) for their maritime education and training. This is a huge burden for students and
their families (Zhao & Amante 2003).
When issuing certificates the aspect of corruption has to be taken into account by several
ship owners. Some shipping companies offer additional training to seafarers from China
and the Philippines, which are also countries from where corruption to get certificates has
been reported. Shipping companies state that “there was a feeling that STCW had done
nothing… to achieve standardization in maritime education and training across the world”
(Sampson 2003b). The maritime industry can easily be used as a means for illegal
18 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
immigration, as it is impossible to check the reliability of the one million ship officers
plying the seas. Falsified seafarer certificates can easily be brought from the black markets
all over the globe (Kanev 2005).
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 19
3 LEGISLATION CONCERNING MANNING AND CREW COMPETENCE
The International Labor Organization (ILO 2006) has established the Maritime Labor
Convention. This is because shipping is an industry of global nature, and seafarers need
special protection. The convention states that every seafarer has the right to a safe and
secure workplace, a right to fair terms of employment, a right to decent working and living
conditions on board a ship and a right to health protection, medical care, welfare measures
and other forms of social protection.
The regulations mentioned below are regulations that directly affect crews and their role in
maritime safety as given by authorities. Therefore, they are factors not influenced by a
single crew member or organization.
3.1 International Maritime Organization (IMO): the SOLAS and the STCW conventions
To ensure crews are competent and have proper education for ships plying international
waters, the International Maritime Organization (IMO 2004b) has adopted qualification
standards for seafarers on merchant ships. These qualification standards were named the
International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for
Seafarers (STCW). It sets basic requirements for training and certification in international
seafaring. The STCW had in year 2011 altogether 134 parties, which represent a majority
of the world shipping tonnage (IMO 2011a). The instructions for the proper manning of
ships are stated in the IMO resolution on the principles of safe manning A.890 (21) (IMO
2000). It states that there should be enough crew on board a merchant ship to have the
capability of maintaining safely the navigation, mooring, environment, fire prevention and
fighting, medical care, life-saving equipment and cargo handling of the ship.
SOLAS (International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea) from 1974 is applied for
the manning and training of seafarers (SOLAS chapter V, regulation 15). STCW is also the
prime authority on training. The STCW, too, applies to ship-owners, training
establishments and national maritime administrations and it concerns merchant ships in
domestic or international operations. The convention applies separate requirements for each
position on board a ship. It specifies the amount of seagoing experience a master of a ship
has to have, the certificate of education and training and the age of the seafarer. It also
states that “all officers must have a good command of spoken and written English. Senior
officers with functions at a managerial level must also speak and write English”. Crew
members in lower positions are required to be able to comply with helm orders issued in
English (Obando-Rojas 2002). The STCW standard specifies a required level of fluency in
the ship’s declared working language that each employee must speak to a certain level
(Hetherington et al 2006). The so called Manila amendments were adopted in 2010 as an
addition to the convention (IMO 2011b).
20 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
3.2 The European Union
Economic cooperation and therefore the free movement of labor is one of the basic
foundations of the EU (European Union 2012). The union has stated that the free
movement of labor also has to be applicable to maritime transport. Furthermore, the
maritime field has to be more attractive for workers without weakening its competitiveness
(European Union 2007). The EU maritime transport policy strategy until year 2018 states
that maritime careers and skills must be valued in the EU to improve the image of the
sector and to work with the growing shortage of maritime labor. Better working conditions
shall be created by implementing the ILO Maritime Labor Convention in the Union
countries. The European Commission has therefore been actively supporting the work of
preparing the ILO Convention on Maritime Labor in the Union (European Union 2009).
The transport policy strategy also includes examples for proper training and suggestions for
the minimum salary levels in the Union. The act on seafarer training and recruitment from
2001 aims to promote the maritime field as an attractive place to work and wishes to invite
more women into the field (European Union 2001). One possibility for making the field
more attractive for potential young seafarers would be proper compensation in terms of
payment for young officers on board. The Union proposes measures for improving
seafarers’ education and training as a whole. That includes, according to the transport
policy strategy, improving the on-board training, adapting training programs and
concentrating resources to a restricted number of training facilities inside the European
community, to name some examples.
3.3 National regulations
The IMO conventions and regulations are not binding in the member states until they have
been ratified. For an instrument or regulation to come into force, it needs to be ratified in a
certain amount of member states of the current total of 169 countries belonging to the IMO.
Once a convention or other instrument is ratified, it is binding in the member state (IMO
2009a). Some codes and recommendations adopted by the IMO serve as recommendations
and are therefore not binding in the member states. The IMO regulations and conventions
serve as the basis when member states write their own national acts for shipping and the
ships flying their flags. An example of the Finnish maritime is presented in the next
chapter.
The Finnish act on Ships’ Crews and the Safety Management of Ships (1687/2009) states
that “every ship shall be manned in such a manner that the ship, crew, passengers, cargo,
other property or the environment are not needlessly put at risk and that the qualifications
of the crew shall be such as to enable the proper performance of all watch keeping duties on
board” (§ 5). It also states that “certificates of competency are issued by the Finnish
Transport Safety Agency”, where “provided that the applicant meets the requirements with
respect to age, medical fitness, knowledge and skills, training and experience” (§ 17).
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 21
About the working language on board the act notes that all seafarers shall have a sufficient
understanding of the working language and that safety instructions shall be issued in that
language (§ 25). The usage of English as the working language on the bridge is obligatory
on all ships except warships, ships below 150 gross tonnage on any voyage, ships below
500 gross tonnage not on international voyages and fishing vessels (SOLAS 2004). On a
passenger ship, the crew is in emergency situations obliged to communicate in Finnish,
Swedish and English.
According to the Finnish maritime law, in ships flying under the Finnish flag, the captain
has to be a citizen of a country in either the European Union or the European Economic
area. In comparison, for example, in Russia the captain or first officer has to be Russian
(Russian code for Merchant vessels 2011, article 56).
22 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
4 SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS STUDIES CONCERNING CREW AND SAFETY
ISSUES
Studies on accidents (i.e. Baylon & Santos 2011; Mårtensson 2006; Rothblum 2000) show
that the ship crew is the highest risk factor when it comes to maritime safety since
approximately 80-90 % of maritime accidents are caused by human error. The role of crews
on the bridge has changed in terms of advances in technology and in the way of manning
ships due to the employment of multinational crews (The Nautical Institute 2012). This
makes the impact of humans in the maritime safety system evident. The major challenges
that characterize the maritime crews of today according to studies are cited below:
multiculturalism and communication, crew members’ motivation and commitment to their
jobs and the training and recruitment of new seafarers.
Rothblum (2000) suggests that the most severe problems in human factor analysis are
fatigue, lack of communication and coordination between the crew, as well as poor
technological skills concerning, for example, the use of radar. The human error is very
often caused by the social organization of the personnel onboard, error of judgment and
improper lookout or watch keeping as well as misunderstandings between the pilot and the
master or the officer on watch (Hetherington et al 2006). Horck (2010) adds that major
reasons for accidents are poor communication, loss of situation awareness, poor decisionmaking and lack of effective leadership and breakdown of team performance. Theotokas &
Progoulaki (2007) emphasize that people related aspects to be related to safety, such as
good communication, team spirit, trust and low conflict between seafarers, are associated
with superior safety performance.
For this report a number of studies concerning crew and safety issues were surveyed. A
summary of these can be found in table 3.1.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 23
Table 3.1. Summary of previous studies concerning crews and safety cited in this report.
Study Published in/
type of
publication
Target of study Subject of
study
Method Conclusion
Ala-Pöllänen
(2012)
Unpublished studies
in the field of
Maritime history
The contemporary
culture of modern
seafaring
A general
descriptive study
on what is
happening on
ships today
Observational and
interviewing study
Culture dating back
to the era of
Windjammers
affects the
seafaring a great
deal even in present
times
Barsan et al
(2012)
International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea
Transportation
Human Resources
in the Maritime
Transport
Training as a
subject of
competitiveness
Case study Training is
important in
ensuring the
competitiveness of
the ship as well as
in minimizing the
risk of accidents
Baylon &
Santos
(2011)
International Journal
of Innovative
Interdisciplinary
Research
Filipino Maritime
education in a
global context
How Filipino
seafarers affect
the global
markets
Case study Filipinos have a
positive impact if
training is
emphasized
Benton
(2005)
Conference paper
presented at the
International
Association of
Maritime Universities
(IAMU) 6th Annual
General Assembly and
Conference
Multicultural crews Problems at sea
caused by
multicultural
crews
Case study An education
program that
emphasizes critical
thinking skills and
knowledge about
diversity and transcultural interactions
would improve
maritime security.
Grøn &
Knudsen
(2011)
the Danish
International Ship
Register
Accident reports
from Danish ships
The differences
between Danish
and Filipino
seafarers
Several different;
Interviews being
the most important
Filipinos are
causing less
accidents than
Danes
Hansen et al
(2008)
International Maritime
Health
Danish and
Filipino seafarers
Comparison of
the health of the
two groups of
seafarers
Accidents reported
to the Danish
maritime
authorities,
accidents reported
to an insurance
company, files on
medical costs
reimbursed by the
government and
radio medical
reports
Filipinos are
healthy and
encounter less
accidents, but it
may be a result of
underreporting
of accidents
happening to
foreigners
24 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
Study Published in/
type of
publication
Target of study Subject of
study
Method Conclusion
Hetherington
et al (2006)
Journal of Safety
Research
Some 20 studies of
seafaring: fatigue,
stress, health,
situation
awareness,
teamwork,
decision-making,
communication,
automation and
safety culture
How humans
affect maritime
safety
Literature review Lack of language
skills causes
problems at sea
Horck (2010) PhD thesis, Malmö
University
Students at World
Maritime
University
Cultural matters
in maritime
training
Phenomenography
and discourse
psychology
The cultural
background of crew
member does
matter
Horck (2006) Licentiate thesis,
Malmö University
Students at World
Maritime
University
Communication
among
international
students
Discourse analysis,
phenomenography
and discourse
psychology
The cultural
background of a
crew member
causes differences
in the ways of
communicating
Håvold
(2007)
Work & Stress
Journal of Work,
Health &
Organizations
Survey
data from 2,558
seafarers from 27
countries
The association
between national
culture and the
safety orientation
of seafarers on
Norwegianowned vessels
Interviews,
multivariate
correlation analysis
The more different
nationalities on
board, the bigger is
the risk for
misunderstandings
Lu et al
(2012)
Accident Analysis and
Prevention
Human failures in
container shipping
Effects of
national culture
on human failures
in container
shipping
Questionnaire study The theory of
cultural dimensions
affects maritime
safety
Mårtensson
(2006)
PhD thesis, Luleå
tekniska universitet
Mainly Officers
and engineers of
cargo ships
Understanding
the problems tied
to safety by
utilizing an
organizational
perspective
Interviews,
observations on
board Swedish and
Danish freighter
ships
Multicultural crews
are a risk for
maritime safety
Oltedal et al
(2010)
Conference paper
presented at the
European Safety and
Reliability Conference
The use of safety
management
systems within the
Norwegian tanker
industry
How the ISM by
IMO works on
Norwegian
tankers
Interviews and
observational study
More
responsibility
should be taken in
shipping companies
regarding safety
issues as well as
closer and stable
relationships with
the contract crew
board
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 25
The table shows that a distinctly diverse sample of studies about crews and maritime safety
exists. It is evident that a major part of the studies are done from a western point of view,
which also Horck (2010) has noticed.
Study Published in/
type of
publication
Target of study Subject of
study
Method Conclusion
Popescu et al
(2010)
Conference paper
presented at Advances
in maritime and naval
science and
engineering, Romania,
September 2010
Young students
going on board
ships as
apprentices
Communication
in a language that
is not the native
one for many
seafarers
Observational study More education in
maritime English is
needed
Pyne &
Koester
(2005)
The Archives of
Transport
Maritime accident
reports
Communication
of crews
Literature review Language skills are
an important factor
in maritime safety
Rothblum
(2000)
Congress paper
presented at the
National Safety
Council Congress and
Expo, Orlando 2000
Statistics and
reports on
accidents all over
the world
Human error such
as
communication
and situation
awareness
Literature review Ship crew and their
fatigue are the most
important factors
causing accidents
Sampson &
Wu (2007)
Conference paper
presented at SIRC’s
seventh Symposium
July 2007
Maritime education
system in the
Philippines and
China
Maritime
education and
students in China
and the
Philippines
Literature review Filipinos hold an
advantage in the
global market since
better command in
English
Sampson &
Zhao (2003)
World Englishes Multilingual crews Communication
and the operation
of ships in a
multilingual
environment
Interviews of crew
members
The development
of a more standard
maritime English is
needed
Theotokas &
Progoulaki
(2007)
Maritime Policy &
Management
Greek seafarers
interacting with
crews from other
nationalities
For Greeks it is
harder to
cooperate with
people from
cultures with
lower power
distance
Observational study The study indicated
that mixed crews
can be a risk if they
are not properly
supported
Thomas
(2003)
Conference paper
presented at SIRC’S
third symposium
September 2003
Women seafarers
working in the
maritime industry
Differences in
attitudes
concerning the
perspective of
gender
Literature review,
discursion analysis
More women are
needed in the
industry to make
the crew
composition of
ships more
balanced and
therefore more safe
26 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
4.1 Cultural factors as a matter of safety
Culture is, according to the Oxford dictionary (2012), defined as ideas, customs and social
behavior of particular people or a society. The so called shipping culture dates back to the
era of sailing ships. It consists of habits, traditions and terminology that are common even
today. Calling the right side of the ship starboard and keeping the same watch system as
always are examples of a fairly persistent shipping culture.
Cultural issues are not to be underestimated when, for example, implementing new safety
concepts, since many habits and traditions are adopted by younger seafarers from old
seamen as so called silent knowledge not taught in maritime training institutions. Very
often new restrictions and codes do not meet with old habits and are therefore difficult to
take into use on board. Luckily culture is also a subject of change, for example the old
habits of alcohol abuse at sea has today almost totally vanished (Ala-Pöllänen 2012).
4.1.1 The theory of cultural dimensions
Lu et al (2012) state that national culture has significant importance in explaining the
occurrence of human errors on ships. They emphasize that dimensions of national culture
are related to human failures in ship operations. Lu et al (2012) studied the impact of
national culture on work safety on board tankers by comparing the beliefs of seafarers from
different national cultures in a questionnaire to seafarers. They used the theory of cultural
dimensions presented by Geert Hofstede in the 1970s as a reference. The theory of cultural
dimensions suggests that there are five elements that affect intercultural cooperation and
therefore also maritime safety the most. These are Power Distance, Collectivism,
Uncertainty Avoidance, Masculinity and Confucian Dynamism later referred to as Long
term orientation.
Power distance refers to how members of an organization or institution accept how power
is distributed. For example, people from countries with low power distance relations are
more consultative and democratic whereas individuals from high power distance cultures
are more respectful of authority and less effective without orders from their supervisors.
Collectivism refers to how individuals are treated in a group. In collectivistic cultures
individuals feel strongly committed to the group and prioritize the group over the
individual. Uncertainty avoidance refers to the society’s ability to tolerate changes. People
from countries with high levels of uncertainty avoidance try to avoid the occurrence of
unknown by trying to predict changes as early as possible and by implementing rules and
restrictions to cope with them. On the other hand, people from societies with low
uncertainty avoidance are comfortable in changing situations and they try to have as few
rules as possible, being at the same time more tolerant of change. Long term orientation is
defined as society’s attitudes towards time. People with a low level of orientation have
higher appreciation towards the future and they are careful, hardworking and continuous,
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 27
while those with a high level of long term orientation are respectful of tradition and
protecting one’s face.
4.1.2 Examples of cultural dimensions affecting maritime safety
There is evidence that lower levels of masculinity leads to a safer working environment. Lu
et al (2012) assume that the higher the masculinity level in a culture, the higher the
probability of human failures. Factors such as saving one’s face, shame and respect for
social status are seen to have a negative relation to work safety. Therefore, the seafarers
who are motivated to look to the future are safer as operators compared to those who are
afraid of losing their face or fulfilling social obligations in the short run. Lower power
distance and Collectivism as experienced by seafarers helps reduce human failures in
container shipping operations.
Lu et al (2012) continue that if a person’s Long term orientation is high, it weakens the
relationship between collectivism and human failures in container shipping: high
collectivism will lead to fewer human failures experienced by seafarers, but only when the
levels of long term orientations among the crew are high. The authors mention the
Filipinos as an example. They score high degrees in collectivism, being more group
oriented and co-operative, whereas the Chinese culture relies on a high power distance and
organizational hierarchy and face-saving. Seafarers from lower power distance cultures
participate in contributing to a safer work environment and risk reporting.
Grøn & Knudsen (2011) present the concept of social cultural structure on board a ship
and use the same theory of cultural dimensions as their background. When comparing
Norwegians and Filipinos, the issue of cultural differences comes up. Norwegians see work
as a value and highlight individualism, whereas a Filipino, originating from a highly
collectivistic culture, sees work as a means to support the family and community, which
leads to fewer risks from them compared to their northern colleagues. Grøn & Knudsen
2011 state that Filipino seafarers encounter fewer accidents than Danes, but that the results
are disputable to some extent.
There are several reasons for why Filipinos are considered to be safer mariners. One is
stated to be that Filipinos are usually younger and their selection process is tougher: the so
called healthy immigrant effect, stating that workers are selected for their good health and
physical abilities. It may also be that different nationalities do different kinds of jobs and
thus others than the Filipinos get to do jobs that are less risky than others. This argument
needs further research – it is against the 3-d theory of employees from the third world
countries performing the more dirty, difficult and dangerous tasks. Different positions may
be more severely undermanned than others. This might lead to fatigue and stress in workers
in such groups and therefore to more accidents. Filipinos work more seldom as officers, of
whom there is severe lack of (Grøn & Knudsen 2011). Horck (2006) also mentions issues
such as different ways of thinking, better attitudes towards obeying orders, a selection
28 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
where only the best of the best are chosen, Asians having less alcohol problems and a better
contribution to a global market, which supports the global development.
A stronger social network among the Filipinos also leads to better mental health. According
to Pyne & Koester (2005), studies indicate that Asians commit less murders and suicides.
Another cultural issue are the cultures with a high power distance, where it is not allowed
to question the decisions of one’s superior. An example of this occurred on board the
Bunga Teratai Satu in 2000 with an Asian crew, where the wheelman of the tanker knew
something was wrong but for this reason did not tell his officer, and the ship ran aground
(Pyne & Koester 2005). In their report, Pyne & Koester present some interesting examples
of cultural factors affecting people’s working habits. One example is that the word ‘no’ is
considered rude in Asian cultures. This is a challenge when, for example, the pilot is a
westerner used to getting straight feedback from the mariners.
Also Hansen et al (2008) studied the on board occurrence of accidents and illnesses of
different nationalities by comparing Filipinos with Danes. They discovered that Filipinos
encounter less occupational accidents than Danish seafarers. They also found differences in
the physical abilities of the two groups. The Danes, for example, are more often
overweight, which leads to a significant amount of back problems. They draw a conclusion
that a seafarer from the Philippines has a higher risk of losing his job due to an accident and
may for that reason be willing to avoid potential risk situations to a greater extent than his
Danish colleague.
Håvold (2007) studied cultural differences on board Norwegian ships and presents the term
safety orientation, which is a mixture of cultural, organizational, and contextual factors
creating attitudes and behaviors that are related to safety. To demonstrate, Håvold presents
the fact that the more nationalities there are on board the ship, the lesser scores are obtained
in safety attitudes. This is also what Mårtensson (2006) found out. National culture also
affects the safety culture: people from cultures with higher power distance, high uncertainty
avoidance and high individualism score positively in terms of safety and are therefore safer
employees. He states that if a seafarer comes from cultures with high uncertainty
avoidance, they are more likely to follow orders and standard operating procedures.
Theotokas & Progoulaki (2007) studied how well Greek seafarers interact with crews from
other nationalities. They found out that for the Greeks, it is more difficult to cooperate with
people from cultures with a power distance lower than their own, such as Russians, since
they feel that they might question their position and behavior. It is also evident that when
all crew members participate in the decision dissertation making and a flexible leadership management
exists, the crew works more effectively. The Greeks also had problems with
communication, language, customs and religion. The study indicated that mixed crews can
be a risk if they are not properly supported.
Filipinos have been reporting that they often do not want to work with fully Filipino crews
because of nepotism, favoritism towards relatives, which on board ships means favoring
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 29
seafarers from the same region. It is also indicated that working with persons from different
kinds of cultures increases safety, as it creates a social distance, tolerance and respect
among people from different nationalities and makes it easier to form especially
professional relationships on board. Some crew members also stated that a multinational
crew increased cultural understanding and racial tolerance (Sampson & Zhao 2003).
The problem with a multicultural crew is according to Horck (2010; 2006) the diverse
background of the seafarers and that the crews often do not know each other in advance and
are therefore not able to work as a team very fast. Introducing more social activities on
board the ships as well as making longer contracts with the crews would, according to
Horck (2010) increase maritime safety. In these kinds of situations the leader has to act
differently than in a crew that in everybody comes from similar cultural backgrounds.
When discussing cultural stereotyping is a way of defining cultural differences and “it
makes it easier to predict another person’s character and as to reduce our own uncertainty”.
To accomplish a working multicultural environment on board ships the maritime industry
needs the adopting of stronger leadership and a more developed culture of teamwork
(Horck 2010).
Sampson & Wu (2007) point out that a seafarer’s experiences within national frameworks
have a great impact on what a person considers to be a risk. These are, for example, safety
practices, safety regulations and labor market conditions that vary internationally.
4.2 Communication
Language is one of the strongest elements in culture (Horck 2010). He states that “people
from the same culture have to be able to communicate” and that language is undoubtedly
the greatest facilitator of communication. The proper knowledge of a language clearly leads
to fewer accidents. Research has shown that those who have stayed in a country longer
encounter fewer accidents, evidently due to the improvement of his or her language skills
(Grøn & Knudsen 2011). Lack of communication has been reported to be common and
language problems are mentioned since a declining number of ships have single nationality
crews (Hetherington et al 2006).
Pyne & Koester (2005) bring up several cases of communication failures in their report.
These are listed as problems related to different cultures and languages between the crew
and the pilot, the crew and the passengers on passenger vessels, and with respect to external
communication and VHF communication with other vessels. They justify that it is possible
to minimize the amount of accidents directly related to poor communication since most of
the accidents occur when the level of understanding English is poor. Other factors to be
improved are procedures for communication, better selection of personnel and improved
design of maritime equipment and technology, including means for communication. Pyne
& Koester (2005) further state that especially crew communication is a significant factor in
maritime accidents. When crewmembers speak the same language, there is a risk of
30 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
misunderstanding. When adding people using English as a second language and the
possible cultural differences, the risk of miscommunication increases a great deal.
A lack of communication is a problem on an organizational, but also on an individual level.
Horck states in his licentiate thesis from 2006 PhD thesis that the lack of a common language in a
multinational crew can lead to the isolation of a crew member and a limited social life on
board. He writes: “To be onboard for say half a year and not have anyone to talk to more
than to say ‘good morning’ and ’thank you’ etc. leads you to alienation and becomes a risk
factor”. Moreover, if the majority of the crew speaks a different language than the person in
question, the “lack of information contributes to fear, uncertainty and the spread of
rumors”. The effect of culture on the means of communication gives the individual an
understanding of the social interaction. Sampson & Zhao (2003) emphasize the importance
of English also in social situations, leading to a more uniform crew and therefore an
improved safety culture.
Without a common language, the person gets isolated and suspicious towards others in the
group (Horck 2006). He presents several accidents where the lack of communication
causing an accident has been clearly shown. These are, for example, the collision of Silja
Opera in the Baltic in 2003, the collision between Xu Chang Hai and Aberdeen in 2000,
and a fire aboard the Scandinavian Star in 1999.
It is often stated that a great deal of communication is what we call non-verbal (Horck
2010). This can be understood as the things people do not say that are expected to be
understood from manners and facial expressions. In understanding non-verbal
communication, culture plays a crucial role. We know, for example, that nodding one’s
head in Western countries is understood as yes, whereas in for example India it is a no. As
Horck underlines, non-verbal communication is probably not an issue when serious orders
are given but in other situations it surely does matter. Horck throws the ball to the officers
by stating that it is their job to make sure that everybody on board understands what is
happening. As a warning example of the lack of cultural understanding in terms of
communication, Horck (2006) shows that dealing with cultural issues is also a fact of
honor: people often have difficulties in admitting that they do not understand what a
colleague is saying.
The aviation industry is generally viewed as advanced in terms of research and safety and
much of the work that is under construction in the field of marine accident prevention has
already been done in aviation. Pyne & Koester present maritime accidents caused by lack
of communication in a literature review published in the Archives of Transport in 2005.
They base their study on the ADREP taxonomy used in the investigation of aviation
accidents. Implementing a similar kind of system into the maritime field would certainly
help accident analysis at sea as well. In aviation, the Crew Resource Management (CRM)
has been used for a long time. It is a list of best practice training based on non-technical
skills, such as communication, teamwork, situation awareness, leadership, assertiveness,
decision making and workload management.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 31
A ship is a very different work environment compared to other work places. The crew can
be separated from their families for long times and the hierarchy on board is often strong
and of a vertical nature, which has a negative impact on the communication among the
crew. This may lead to authoritarian relationships where superiors’ words are not
questioned and therefore to severe misunderstandings occurring (Mårtensson 2006).
4.2.1 Maritime English
Because of the international character of shipping, maritime English has proved to be a
very important part of future officer training. If an officer is not used to speaking English,
in the beginning it may be difficult to express oneself. A paper written by Popescu et al
(2010) suggests that the improvement of the standard maritime English would help young
apprentices to communicate and so to avoid accidents that happen due to human errors
caused by bad communication. Despite the positive impacts of multinational crews,
communication was seen as the major problem. When skills in English are not good
enough, it increases the risk of misunderstandings. This is a risk considering the ship is a
highly hierarchical system. Sampson & Zhao present an example of a captain who had poor
knowledge of English.. This caused problems with the lower ranks in terms of a loosened
authority.
Recommendations for standard maritime English have been adopted by the IMO. It is a
simplified version of English including standard vocabulary for maritime communication
(Sampson & Zhao 2003). Despite good efforts of adopting Maritime English into the field,
it was not detected in the study on board ships. Also the drive for cheaper crews from less
developed countries can, according to Sampson & Zhao, be seen as a risk, since the
assumption is that their English skills may be poorer.
The additional training in English is well acknowledged by maritime training facilities
(Horck 2010). In any case the English skills of seafarers are often very basic, and the
situation in ports is similar, too (Horck 2010). This said, it is evident that the level of
English taught in maritime education has to be more advanced and also implemented for on
shore operators such as port operators.
4.4 Masculinity
The STCW amendments resolution 14 underlines the need for getting more women into the
maritime industry (IMO 2010). At present, women only make up 2 % of the whole
maritime workforce in the world. They work mainly in the cruise and ferries sector and
often for vessels sailing under flags of convenience. Fewer women work as officers
compared to their male colleagues (International Transport Workers’ Federation 2012).
32 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
Gender is discussed by several scholars (i.e. Horck 2010; Sampson 2003b; Thomas 2003).
Horck (2010) states that since seafaring traditionally is a male dominated profession, one
should be aware that women do not think in similar ways to men. This could be strongly
contested, as it could be a matter of personality and the sample of woman leaders in the
field is small. Even if one could argue against the statement that a woman is a safer captain
than a man, introducing a more gender equal industry would have a positive impact. As
Thomas (2003) writes, “Introducing more women to the maritime field would actively
improve the morale and atmosphere on board, promoting a more ‘normal’ environment for
the crew to live and work within”. A more balanced and normal environment would clearly
bring more safety to the maritime industry. It is evident that women are a highly unused
resource in a field where a clear shortage of labor exists. Many of those interviewed in
Thomas’s study pointed out that being at sea is a hard job and not suited for women, and
that they are not brave or able enough to make critical decisions while at sea (Thomas
2003). This said, the maritime sector still has a long way to go in terms of bringing equality
to the field.
4.5 Training
As shipping grows to be a more and more international business, also its managers need to
be more aware of cultural differences. The STCW convention has acknowledged the
cultural effects on people’s ways of communicating and it has been added to the regulations
as an issue of training and education. The question is how much resources the training
programs use on this. Horck has in several studies suggested introducing more education in
cultural awareness into the maritime education (Horck 2010; 2006; 2005). Benton (2005)
states the same. Horck (2006) states that ship owners are the biggest problem in the
industry. Many of them do not see mixed crews as a possibility but more as a safety risk,
while they at the same time take advantage of the possibility of saving crewing costs.
Horck (2006) states that a greater focus should be given to the human element should
instead of automation and technology in decreasing the impact of the human factor. One
improvement would be better cooperation on board. Hence education and the knowledge of
cultures and how people act together as a group are needed, as misunderstandings are a
great threat to safety in the shipping industry. No statistics on whether accidents are caused
by differences in cultural behavior and/or lack of communication has yet been conducted to
support the theory Horck is presenting. Still, the clear outcome of the study is “to realize
that we all need education in cultural awareness to be efficient in an industry getting more
and more globalized”. Furthermore, it is necessary, according to Horck (2010), for
maritime students to attend courses in pedagogy. Horck states that gender perspective,
cultural awareness and pedagogy are the three subjects that should be introduced at
maritime education training facilities very soon. Maritime education institutions do not, in
Horck’s (2010) opinion, “give enough time in their curriculums to teach communication
and management skills whereas the technical issues are highly emphasized at all parts of
the education of mariners”.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 33
At sea, errors are caused by bad design, poor training and bad management systems.
Competitive seafarers are well trained and low risk takers. These are made by good quality
training. Training ensures a ship maintains a high standard of operation and it enhances the
safety culture aboard a vessel (Barsan et al 2012). The increase of technology aboard ships
has increased the need for training and especially training on modern ships.
4.6 Motivation and attitudes towards safety of crew members
The motivation of crews can be considered a risk factor: the lower the motivation among
the crew is, the higher the risk for an accident to happen (Mårtensson, 2006). Employees’
motivation and work morale are important factors in enhancing safety as well as fatigue and
risk taking. Lu & Tsai (2007) studied attitudes towards safety on ships. They found out that
if seafarers feel their working conditions are less safe, risky and unhealthy, it leads to more
accidents. Improvement of safety culture therefore leads to fewer accidents. This is why
improving management safety procedures and increased safety training are suggested.
These would include, among others, frequent inspections of navigation and safety
equipment, better provision of safety information and safety training programs for crews.
To improve maritime safety, companies have to be competitive and have crews that are
motivated and engaged in a safer working environment. An important factor in minimizing
human error is the management of human resources. This can be done, according to Barsan
et al (2012), by improving communication by creating a favorable communication climate,
opening new communication channels among the company and crew, developing
interpersonal communication skills such as cooperation, dealing with emotions and team
work. Furthermore, employment conditions for seafarers should be acknowledged to have
an obvious impact on maritime safety (Barsan et al 2012).
4.7 Crew-related organizational factors that affect maritime safety
In a large analysis about risks in the maritime sector, it was shown that shipping can be
considered a social system with interaction of different actors and common values. The
problem is, however, that safety values do not seem to exist even if regulations from IMO
and the EU have been implemented. Another problem is that actors are at the same time
controllers, which should not be the case and puts them into a “double role”. Improving
safety at sea requires a change of safety culture and therefore changes to the structures of
maritime organizations. The author suggests fees and other financial sanctions for those not
following the regulations (Mårtensson 2006). An investigation of how the International
Safety Manual implemented by the IMO works on Norwegian tankers demonstrated that
there are several gaps in the system. The survey suggests that shipping companies should
take more responsibility for safety issues. Also a closer and stable relationship with the
34 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
contract crew shall be established in the shipping companies to improve safety management
on board (Oltedal et al 2010).
Fatigue is, as mentioned earlier, one of the main factors contributing to human error. It is
clearly an organizational issue, since the number of crewmembers, schedule of the ship and
route are organized by the shipping company, giving less leeway to the crew to plan
working hours and watches. Studies have shown that fatigue is a major contributor to safety
because of its impact on performance, and it is therefore considered to be the cause of
several marine casualties. Significantly, seafarers work in an environment that is subject to
often unforeseeable weather conditions, no clear division between recreation and work, and
they are expected to work and live together with seafarers that they often do not know and
who come from different backgrounds and cultures than their own. Factors such as the
quality and quantity of sleep, stress, fear, boredom, workload and interpersonal
relationships affects sleep negatively and are therefore contributors to fatigue. Even if the
number of maximum working hours on board is restricted by authority regulations, the
problem is that the time for rest is seldom constant, but interrupted by different kinds of
disturbances (IMO 2001).
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 35
5 CONCLUSIONS
In this review, a large number of studies concerning maritime safety issues related to the
crew have been cited. A large consensus exists on that the human element directly
referenced to as the crew is the main factor causing accidents. Scholars also agree on the
fact that the human element is most often caused by issues related to communication and
lack of situational awareness. But when going deeper to the analysis of what is causing
these communication failures, the results seem to be somewhat contradictory. As a
summary, here are some of the most interesting findings:
Grøn & Knudsen (2011) and Hansen et al (2008) found out that Filipino crew members
encounter fewer accidents and have a higher commitment to their jobs because of their
cultural background. Mårtensson (2006) on the other hand writes that Asians are culturally
more likely to form authoritarian relationships in which orders from the master are obeyed
without questioning. This can lead to more accidents when something seems to be going
wrong. Horck emphasizes in several studies the understanding of English which is proven
to be better among Filipinos (Wu & Sampson 2005) than among other nationalities, such as
east Europeans (excluding crews from Western Europe and naturally the US). Pyne &
Koester (2005) also highlight the lack of language skills that may cause accidents as
misunderstandings are inevitable in an environment where the crew shares no common
language.
Horck (2004), too, reports similar kinds of results in a conference speech. As he concludes,
“one report states that mixed crews can operate extremely successfully, the other that the
captain was worried all the time, one report states that there are some problems and the
fourth that the issue is not problem free”. This said, a conclusion would be that no research
indicates that a mixed crew is an advantage. A fact is that crew members who do not speak
English well enough is a severe problem in the constantly increasing number of mixed
crews in the maritime industry. It seems the common denominator for the problems related
to multinational crews are cultural misunderstandings. It is evident that we need more
education in language skills, but also in cultural understanding, as Horck (2004)
summarizes.
The Baltic Sea is, according to the Baltic Marine Environment Commission HELCOM, one
of the most intensely operated seas in the world and the amount of traffic is expected to
grow in the near future. According to HELCOM (2008), some 2000 vessels ply the waters
of the Baltic area at any moment. The Baltic is also a shallow sea with rocky coasts,
causing more challenges to navigation. Considering that about 80 % of the ships have
multicultural crews, in total there are up to 1600-1800 ships with multicultural crews. The
question remains if this creates a risk to maritime safety, and how multicultural crews
should be taken into consideration in the mitigation of potential risks.
Not only is the Baltic an area of dense traffic and vulnerable environment, but also the only
sea where a great number of ports are annually surrounded by ice. This is a challenge for
36 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
navigators entering the area, especially for crews not familiar with winter navigation.
Examples of damages have been reported as damages to hull, or propulsion and grounding,
or collision due to avoiding ice and loss of stability due to ice (Hänninen 2008).
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 37
6 SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER STUDIES
This report has studied how crews contribute to maritime safety mainly on the individual
level. It is noticeable that the organizational level, referring mainly to shipping companies,
affects the function of the crews a great deal. Fatigue of crews due to tight schedules,
possible undermanning of ships, bad management, unequal or low salaries, old or otherwise
insufficient equipment or technology, the safety culture of the company and its recruitment
policy are, among others, factors that affect the maritime safety from the crew point of
view, but that a single crew member can hardly or at all, change or influence. These factors
are equally important points for further studies. Another possible object of study is the
aspect of multiculturalism in ship operation, and how possible problems caused by
multinational crews could be avoided in the future.
The CAFE-project aims to improve maritime safety in the Baltic Sea region by finding and
evaluating factors that affect maritime safety. As stated earlier, it is the ship’s crew that
causes about 80 % of the accidents, and therefore the impact of a ship’s crew on safety
cannot be underestimated. However, no studies are available on what kind of ship crews
and competence the ships entering the Baltic Sea have. Suggestions for further studies
include: What is the composition (amount of crew, nationality, competence) of an average
crew on a ship sailing in the Baltic Sea area? How well do the crew members speak
English? Are the crew members capable enough to handle the occasionally harsh conditions
of the Baltic, for example the ice in the winter time? What is the situation of multicultural
crews in the Baltic compared with the situation worldwide? Do the composition and
competence of ships in the Baltic differ from ships in other sea areas?
6.1 Suggestions for sources of information about crews and manning in the Baltic Sea
area:
6.1.1 Portnet
Portnet is a web based information system used by the Finnish Transport agency and the
Finnish customs to monitor the ships entering and leaving Finnish ports (Portnet 2012). All
reports given by ships coming to Finnish are reported to the system and are used by the
customs for inspections, by ports for charging and monitoring dangerous cargo, and by
maritime authorities and coast guards for the surveillance of ships. Information recorded to
the Portnet database includes the IMO crew list, which provides information about the
amount of crew, their rank, nationality and flag of a ship. This could provide valuable
information on what kind of crew a ship sailing in Finnish waters has.
38 Berg, Storgård and Lappalainen
6.1.2 GOFREP
The Gulf of Finland Reporting system is a Mandatory Ship Reporting System adopted by
the IMO. It is a reporting system to which all ship entering the Gulf of Finland are obliged
to report information about their vessel to Finnish, Estonian or Russian maritime
authorities. Information required includes the amount of crew on board, thus providing
some information about the manning of the ship (Finnish Transport agency and Estonian
Maritime Administration 2010).
6.1.3 Accident reports and near miss reports
As shown earlier, accident reports given by authorities provide valuable information about
how crews affect maritime safety. Also near miss reports are a valuable source of
information, since many they give information on how to avoid possible accidents in the
future.
6.1.4 Authorities and organizations
Several authorities could provide valuable information into the field of study of crews and
their impact of maritime safety. Pilots and port authorities are an extremely valuable source
of information, also as used by Hetherington (2006), Pyne & Koester (2005) and Lane
(1999). The Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi keeps a record on crews sailing under
the Finnish flag. The records are published annually and contain information on, for
example, the proportions of age groups in different occupation groups, the proportions of
foreign seafarers in different occupation groups, and the numbers of personnel onboard the
ships. Unfortunately, the reports do not present the nationalities of foreign seafarers
(Seaman statistics 2010). Additionally, the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) operators may
have valuable information of how the ships communicate since they follow the radio
operations in real time.
Other potential sources of information include those operating the ships, such as ship
owners and ship crews themselves, as well as maritime training facilities. The Finnish
Seamens’ union also has valuable information about crews sailing under the Finnish flag.
The impact of ship crews on maritime safety 39
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