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Evolving crew assessment to meet the challenges of a disrupted world

By Daniel Shirley 

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The pandemic has disrupted travel, impacting crew recruitment and mobilisation severely. While travel is improving for business people, crew managers still face considerable hurdles. As the likelihood of seafarer contract duration being extended out of necessity, recruiters must now consider that the crew they place may be required to work and live together longer than normal.

In our recent webinar “Evolving crew assessment to meet the challenges of a disrupted world”, Capt. Torger Tau and Catherine Logie joined me to outline the recruitment, assessment and career development trends that emerged during the pandemic and shared some examples of the tools and processes companies have adopted to build teams that are resilient to future disruption.

See below for some of the highlights.

Crew welfare

The mental health implications of seafarers spending extended periods away from home and family, with added uncertainty around when this situation might change, have been discussed widely in other forums. In our session, Catherine surfaced the isolating effect on seafarers of language barriers and an inability to communicate socially with fellow crew.

 Safety culture demands that crew “speak up” while crew wellbeing programmes recommend “talking to each other” to protect mental health: there is a necessity for crews to share a common language and for individuals to have confident speaking skills and strong listening skills to be able to speak up and be heard.

Communication skills and an individual’s behaviour can vary considerably in stressful situations, such as an emergency on board. A failure to communicate effectively or act correctly in a crisis can have significant consequences for safety. Both Catherine and Torger outlined the importance of screening for behaviour and English language competence to mitigate these risks during recruitment and as part of ongoing appraisals.

Crew cohesion

The ability of a crew to work as a unit and live together as a team is an absolute must in ensuring ongoing safe and effective operations.

Torger pointed out that during extended periods onboard, conflicting personalities and gaps in knowledge are magnified, potentially leading to conflict and increasing risk. Skill gaps are often filled by other members of the team picking up the slack, increasing their workload and putting pressure on working relationships.

The cost and effort of mobilising crew have grown significantly, as has the operational risk of selecting the wrong person. In addition to overdue reliefs, it may take far longer than normal to repatriate an under-performing crew member. Screening for competency, behaviour and personality helps ensure you hire the right candidates.

Our AI Proctored tests record the quality of the test environment when assessing crew online. As the conditions in which a personality test are taken can significantly impact the outcome, the confidence offered by an AI monitored test adds an extra level of assurance to results.

Crew mobility

Travel restrictions have hindered some in-person recruitment, onboarding and testing. Online assessment and pre-joining familiarisation have become increasingly commonplace, particularly as recruiters look to new crew supply areas. Companies rely heavily on online assessments for testing at scale and evaluating candidates from multiple locations.

Tools such as our Virtual Classroom, online AI Proctored testing and integrated Wartsila Cloud Simulator have helped trainers, recruiters, assessors and crewing teams to conduct a broader range of activities remotely and relieve pressures on distributed teams.

The flexibility offered by our integrated Wartsila Cloud Simulator promises to be a step-change in recruitment testing. Being able to spin up a simulator up on-demand equips recruiters and crewing teams to be able to assess specific competencies in a high-quality online environment without the cost and time of flying a candidate to a physical simulator.

Crew availability

The conditions seafarers have been subjected to over the pandemic has, no doubt, made a career at sea a less attractive prospect for both current and prospective seafarers.

As the availability of talent continues to contract, and with the industry already facing a shortfall of officers with technical experience, the importance of retaining crew and developing competence in-house will grow.

Catherine highlighted the importance of developing English language competency alongside technical competency so that a lack of communication skills does not become a safety risk when officers are promoted to senior levels.

In summary

The spectre of the pandemic will hover over us for a while yet as will the need to develop resilient teams that have the attitude, technical and collaborative skills to continue to perform their roles through periods of disruption.

Disruption and uncertainty are the new normal, and we need to adapt recruitment processes to thrive in these unpredictable environments rather than just survive.


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