This is an issue we have been discussing a lot recently as crew shortages mean people are promoted too rapidly to gain the vital onboard experience they need. Our recent comments on superintendents have rung a few bells at DNV.
According to John Douglas, from his work at DNV with SeaSkill, across conventional shipping, offshore and seismic it is actually a much bigger problem than many perceive.
"With younger and less experienced senior officers at sea and superintendents recruited without sea-going experience there is a gaping chasm of knowledge and trust between ship and shore management," he says and "the continually changing demands of both parties do not make it any easier".
DNV's approach has been to establish a benchmark of competence for marine standards that is used to test the knowledge component of the job over the internet. He says they have had some very interesting results, even with traditional and senior fleet managers and superintendents. The inference we draw is that they're not up to the job either! So, it looks like we're all going to hell in a handcart.
Seriously though, DNV is not alone in doing some good work and research into this area. At Spinnaker, we are hearing more and more often about lack of trust and understanding between ship and shore management. Shore managers have no appreciation of the impact of their long distance instructions. So say their seagoing critics. But, seagoing staff don't understand the commercial drivers behind what they're being asked to do, say the desk jockeys.
The solution? Well, it's not easy of course, but the root of all evil in any kind of organisation is miscommunication and it is no coincidence then that the best managers are usually also the best communicators. As more and more non-seafarers take up shoreside management roles, communication skills (and the occasional trip to sea!) are becoming more and more important. We see this nowadays in the demands from maritime employers for candidates with demonstrable leadership skills in their CVs.
The top tip then? Brush up those CVs and make sure you're making absolutely clear what you've done to prove your skills and achievements. You may well technically be a decent superintendent but are you a good manager? They're rarer than you think!