The special role of the captain and how to handle it

On board the vessel the Captain has a crucial role. He is the company’s representative towards the crew (and other parties) and he must also take care of the crew’s interests and well-being.

Moreover, when you enter stormy waters in the form of a pandemic that prevents the regular crew change, the captain must balance on a difficult edge.

“When you come to the point where times get tough, it is natural to drift into taking a standpoint where you get closer to the ones you are physically closer to”, says Erik Mohn, Head of Crewing and HR in Seatrans AS.

Some of his captains had found it hard to balance the dialogue between the company and the crew about the difficulties of crew change – or rather the fact that they were not able to change crew within a foreseeable time.

“The captain has an important role in getting messages through to the seafarers. This will often require excellent skills in managing dilemmas. You represent the shipowner toward the crew and the crew toward the manager. While managing this challenge the master might experience increased frustration among the crew; a frustration that increases together with the stress level. This again makes the captain’s challenge even more difficult. Together with navigating rough seas and managing cargo operations the captain manages the role as owner’s representative”, says Gisle Rong, Managing Director of Seatrans.

Being captain on board a ship requires excellent leadership, and our captains must be aware of their role and develop such skills.
Gisle Rong - Managing Director at Seatrans

A special workshop for captains

In order to support the captains in fulfilling this difficult role on board, Seatrans decided to arrange a half-day workshop exclusively for the captains. During the workshop and based on a series of presented scenarios they were to discuss how to deal with different troublesome situations.

Green-Jakobsen had described a series of scenarios demonstrating different ways these were handled by a fiction captain. The participants were then to discuss the reaction of the crew and the captain presented in the scenario.

“The cases presented by Green-Jakobsen are relevant and they demonstrate how important it is that the captain manages to be the link between the crew and the shore side. The captains participating recognize the problems presented”, says Gisle Rong.

Erik Mohn adds: We absolutely managed to discuss the difficult issues. And you never get to finish these. It was a good awareness session.

Discussing the difficult issues

There were a lot of very good topics and discussion points in the scenarios about how you behave on board, the importance of communicating well with the crew and communicating well with your closest colleagues in the ship management team, it was a very good session for everyone. And the format is really good
Erik Mohn - Head of Crew and HR at Seatrans

“I find it very useful to make it as an online session – seen from different angles: it takes less time, you don’t have to pay travels to for example Poland, and the seafarers don’t have to take three days out of their free time to attend a five-hour session. Besides it is easy to drive the discussions among the participants – everyone is there on equal terms”, says Erik Mohn.

Introducing and handling the online format

The online session was managed by Green-Jakobsen – and to a very satisfactory degree, according to both Erik Mohn and Gisle Rong.

“One of the things about the online method that made this really a success was that the logistics were extremely efficient. Even though the Captains are not all very used to the online sessions, it was run smoothly by Green-Jakobsen’s staff, who was helping everyone to move around in the online universe with breakout rooms, presentations and discussions among participants”. We will do it again and use this method for other sessions.

Gisle Rong comments about the workshop format that: “It begins with covid-19 – and that is interesting – you start with a process of solving one problem and then you find a solution, but you also find a solution to something else which you weren’t even aware of”.

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Bjarke Jakobsen
Bjarke Jakobsen
Partner and Senior Consultant

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