Our industry is unique in many ways,none more so than the level of uncertainty and volatility that characterizes shipping. A very large proportion of a shipowner’s mind-space is devoted to the volatility of the revenue stream, asset and stock valuation. Thanks to effective and relatively inexpensive insurance cover, physical risk to assets, steel or human,takes up far less proportion of his mindspace.
Let us remember that freight and asset value responds smartly to demand-supply imbalance in tonnage and rather sluggishly to risk management of life, property or environment.
The amazing thing is shipping is an extraordinarily safe mode of transport of goods and people. Something close to 99.996% of all cargo and passengers are delivered safely across the Oceans along the arterial lifeline of global economy, (a statistic that doesn’t capture media attention as much as a Costa Concordia would).
Somewhere down the pecking order of priorities, the good people aboard and ashore work together in a chaotic cocktail that we call the Human Element, a very crucial cog in the business wheel. So let us dwell on how we can enhance its output:
Ability and Aptitude should logically lead to performance. Non-performance is the first indicator that the ship manager has either not defined the two A’s well or that he is not really acting on performance appraisals.
Training and empowerment are two powerful management tools, sparingly used in general. An allocation of no more than 2% of the Fleet HR budget to customized and company specific training programs will return several multiples of the training expense by way of reduced operating costs, be it voyage optimization or timely intervention and prevention of technical breakdowns. It is also relevant to ask if mentoring is identified as a tangible process within a company’s learning culture.
Empowerment is not about constantly quoting the Master’s over-riding authority under ISM - the over-riding authority is often interpreted as the Master’s unfettered right to incur any expense to respond to a calamity or to over-ride operational instructions to protect life and environment.Empowerment is about giving him financial authority and budgetary responsibility to locally intervene,rectify and preempt routine material or process defects before they lead to high risk situations.
Empowerment is also about seamless sharing of management information from charter parties to voyage performance analysis, from port agency quotations to drydock and technical running costs.
Empowerment is sparingly used for the simple reason that it destroys traditional management hierarchies.
Credits: Captain Sivaraman Krishnamurthi , President, The Nautical Institute
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