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How to Overcome Crew Retention Challenges in the Maritime Industry

11 / 12 / 2019

Even though there is an estimated number of 1,600,000 seafarers globally, the shortage of seafarers has already been identified as a global issue. Moreover, the shortage of seafarers equipped with the right skills for the modern-day environment within the industry makes this even a bigger challenge than you can imagine.

While carrying more than 90% of the world trade in terms of tonnage and the transfer of millions of passengers all around the world, the shipping industry is considered the engine of all trade affairs. Consequently, employing qualitative seafarers and succeeding in retaining them is critical for the safety and efficiency of the operations onboard. Inability to select, hire and retain high-performing and talented crew has now become a global threat to our industry rather than a typical HR issue.

According to Forbes, there are seven essential rules for employee retention, the first one being the most important: “hire selectively”. A study from 2014 deals with the complexity of retention issues for the 21st century seafarers and that employers must pay attention to three main factors: job and employer satisfaction, opportunities for career progression and good working conditions. Moreover, Safety4Sea mentions in a publication that many issues impact seafarers’ happiness and these have to be considered when it comes to promoting decent work and retaining good employees.

Let us take everything from the beginning and start first with the definition of retention and its importance in relation to the maritime industry in particular.

What is Crew Retention?

Many companies consider retention as relating to the efforts by which employers attempt to retain employees in their workforce. In this case, retention becomes the strategy, rather than the outcome.

The maritime industry is no different, and crew retention is a very vast and vital topic for every company that deals with crewing. With a short supply of high performing and qualified seafarers out there, selecting and retaining the right talent becomes a vital part in overcoming this challenge. To achieve this, you not only have to employ the right talent but also work on new and modern strategies to ultimately improve the well-being of seafarers, thus increasing their overall job satisfaction.

Improving Crew Retention with Psychometric Assessments

So how can you go beyond the traditional crewing process and receive substantial and actionable information that will help you select, train and ultimately retain high performing seafarers? As there are many factors that impact retention and there is no definite solution to the issue, psychometric assessments can provide you with significant information on the matter.

Implementing proper psychometric assessments, which are substantiated with strong industry-specific research can deliver valuable, hard-to-obtain data. These, in combination with your existing crewing processes, will grant substantial benefits when it comes to all aspects including selecting, training, promoting and retaining the right crew.

Psychometric assessments for retention

How can you go beyond the resume and receive substantial information during the recruitment process?

Proper psychometric assessments deliver valuable answers even before hiring a candidate, providing data about specific skills. This method goes beyond the resume and offers in-depth knowledge about the answers you need to retain quality seafarers and help your organisation evolve.

Listed below are four factors where psychometric assessments are vital towards retention issues:

1. Retention starts with selection

If you are reading this, then you most probably belong to the recruiting or human resources team at your company, and you have already experienced the difficulty of selecting the right person from the vast pool of applicants. Hiring the right seafarer for the job is the foundation step in building up the retention rate.

It is indeed a challenging task to properly screen and judge a seafarer during an interview. Is he/she truthful, capable and experienced? Do you go by your instinct or their work history? All these questions and uncertainties also lead to one of the biggest challenges of the selection process: interviewer bias.

Regardless of how good you may think you are, the environment in which the interview is conducted, your mood, your experience and your interaction with the candidate can all impact your ability to make the right selection.

To overcome this, you need to be equipped with the right tools that would help reduce this bias. Psychometric assessments do precisely that. By offering you data with a comparison to the industry norms, psychometric assessments eliminate interview bias and offer you an additional set of data on the candidate to base your selection on.

2. Retention via targeted training

“To overcome the shortage of qualified professional officers and fill vacancies aboard ship, there is no quick fix. The only ongoing solution for this challenge is to “home grow” and develop an internal talent pool for the future. Recruiting enthusiastic school leavers as cadets, nurturing their development and giving them the opportunity to grow within the company provides this talent pool.” – Giles Heimann, Corporate Director of Fleet Personnel for Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement at Crew Connect Europe Conference.

Mr Heimann, could not be more correct in his words. Investing in and building an internal pool of high performing seafarers is one of the most critical aspects of ensuring a lasting and robust workforce. By training your seafarers, you not only boost their knowledge but also allow them to develop in their career, which dramatically improves their overall job satisfaction.

Psychometric assessments further support this by offering hard-to-obtain insights into the skill gaps of your crew. Understanding and addressing these gaps has a direct impact on the performance of your crew and their ability to perform their tasks safely and with ease. It unlocks targeted training initiatives, which are not only specific to the individual needs of every seafarer but also streamline your training initiatives and planning.

3. Retention via promotion

Finally, another aspect of securing improved retention rates is via crew promotion. To better improve the job satisfaction and personal development, seafarers who exhibit ambition and good performance must be given the opportunity to grow their career with your company.

It is, however, of utmost importance to promote only the right candidates as promoting the wrong people can really damage the performance of the entire crew and negatively impact your overall retention strategy.

This is where psychometric assessments would come in to assist in making such decisions. The data provided by such assessments give you a clear understanding of the skills an individual seafarer possesses and whether their skill levels are in line with the requirements of the higher position. By applying this additional level of information, you are able to make substantiated decisions, which are also custom-tailored to every seafarer. Promoting based on skill data ultimately ensures that the seafarers’ abilities are aligned with what is required from them thus boosting their job satisfaction and the chances of them staying in their assigned position with your company.


Crew retention is an issue in the maritime industry, which cannot be ignored. By applying the proper practices, you receive the correct results to act upon them. Valid psychometric assessments such as SafeMetrix aid in the challenging processes of crew related matters: recruitment, retention, promotion and training. The platform offers maritime-specific assessments, providing information on the soft and cognitive skills of seafarers.

Find out how SafeMetrix can help you increase your crew retention rates and overcome this challenge.