Training & Education: The Dilemma: Competent Crews vs. Costs

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

The V.Ships Managing Director of USA Shipmanagement operations — Mike Robinson, says that owners are anxious to secure competent crews to serve on their vessels in the coming years, but cost remains an overriding theme in today's market.

V.Ships is aware that the global shortage of seafarers is causing concern.

"The increasingly strict regulatory environment, including the impact of the International Safety Management Code phase 2 provision for all vessels, together with STCW95, means that experienced and fully trained officers and ratings are more crucial than ever to the process of compliance if problems are to be avoided," says Robinson.

Providing management for more than 600 ships, more than half of which are under full technical management, makes V.Ships the largest employer of seagoing staff in the world, with a pool of some 22,500 seafarers of whom some 12,000 are at sea at any one time. An additional 300 cadets make up the complement.

V.Ships draws its seafarers from a wide variety of nationalities, with the largest number coming from the Philippines, India, Ukraine, Russia and the Baltic States. Other countries provide a growing roster of seafarers to the pool.

"Maintaining this crew supply commitment means employing an active recruitment policy to take advantage of all the appropriate sources of seafarers world wide." says Robinson. "Owners come to us because they know we have this huge resource of diverse talent and experience to tap into, enabling us to provide exactly the type of crew they require".

V.Ships provides crew to owners on a variety of terms to suit their needs. These can be lump sum agreements, cost plus agreements or contract crewing arrangements where full crews or a number of officers or specialists are required for a specific period or contract.

Through progressive career development programmes and a real focus on training, V.Ships is able to achieve an 87 percent crew retention success rate.

"This is very significant for clients," says the V.Ships MD, "as crews can be retained within their fleets on a continuous basis generating loyalty and operational efficiencies. When we put a crew on a vessel we don't just forget them. Crew performance is monitored continuously through appraisal reports with correct recognition of performance through promotion or proper assessment of needs or shortcomings through training".

Turning to the question of costs, Robinson believes that owners in all parts of the world — whether it is in Asia Pacific or the Caribbean trades — are looking at the outsourcing option, in a constant drive towards cost efficiency. This does not mean cutting back on crucial areas like safety and high quality manning, but in achieving efficiencies in areas such as procurement of essential supplies — spare parts, bunker fuel, paint, drydocking and ship stores.

V.Ships is also a founder member of MARCAS, the Marine Contracting Association, which itself negotiates terms worldwide for more than 500 vessels. Companies like World-Wide Shipping, Teekay, International United Shipping and BP Shipping are members of this buying association.

Robinson stresses that underpinning all the Company's shipmanagement procedures is the V.Ships Safety Management System (VMS), which has been developed over many years experience in the safe management of ships with a focus on risk management. "It is a dynamic system," says Robinson "which is being continually improved for the purposes of ensuring safer ships and a safer environment, whilst meeting the needs of clients in operating their vessels. It complies with ISM and ISO 9001:2000 as well as SEP and DNV's ISO 14001 quality standards, for customers who wish to gain these additional accreditations."

Robinson explains that the VMS exceeds the necessary obligations required by international, flag state, class and industry regulations by offering substantial guidance to V.Ships staff at sea and ashore on how to operate the vessels under management in the safest possible way with the minimum of risk to persons, the environment and property.

For owners concerned about losing control of their vessels, if they give them to a third party ship manager, Mike Robinson believes that just the reverse is the case. The V.Ships "ShipSure" integrated ship to shore management system — due for rollout in the USA later this year — which controls all management and operating processes linking ship to shore, will be available right in the owners office giving them full access to all the information relevant to their ships and greater control over the management process. Mike Robinson says that in the current market there is much to discuss with owners — particularly the cost benefits that a ship manager the size of V.Ships can and does provide combined with the very personalised management service provided by each of the regional offices.

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