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The role of the superintendent is changing. More and more shipping companies are employing Fleet Technical Officers or Technical Support Assistants to work alongside superintendents, taking away much of the administrative, regulatory and less specialist aspects of the superintendent role.

The theory is that this frees up the superintendent to do what they are good at or expert in (hopefully both!) and also, in theory, allows each superintendent to manage more ships. This is one way to deal with the skills shortage we face.

This leads on to another current superintendent debate: is it really necessary for superintendents to have been at sea?

This is a conversation we are hearing time and time again lately. On one side of the argument are those who say that only chief engineers and masters have the credibility and the expertise to manage ships and win the respect of the officers that report to them. Some even go so far as to say that their expertise is necessary to second guess their weaker less experienced seagoing colleagues.

Others, however, say that the superintendent job description needs to change and that what we need are good managers ashore, who understand that their role is to motivate staff at sea and only call upon a smaller staff of technical gurus when necessary, rather than being a second chief engineer ashore themselves.

They say that many of the problems we face in shipping (in terms of seafaring staff morale and poor retention) are borne of poor management and leadership and that this will only change when the right people are hired to do the managing and the right people are hired to be the technical experts.

Let us know your views – we'd love to hear from you.

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