Certificates and codes may well cover the legal aspect of yachting (superyacht ownership), but is technical training alone enough to offer assurance of a good safety culture (behavior) or even quality professional service for superyacht owners ?
The aim of Standards of Training and Certification of Watch keeping (STCW), according to the site ‘marineinsight.com’ is:
“to set an internationally accepted standard set of safety measures which can be implemented by seafarers all over the world and will make them capable of handling any situation, no matter what part of the world they are in.”
The International Safety Management (ISM) Code objectives are put forth as follows, by International Maritime Organization (IMO):
“To ensure safety at sea, prevention of human injury or loss of life, and avoidance of damage to the environment, in particular to the marine environment and to property.”
While following the spirit of the ISM Code, and checking crew qualifications may seem sufficient for the safety of your superyacht, your guests and crew, it actually rests on how leaders approach the implementation of the codes, and in their understanding of their subordinates mental models of the codes and safety. This in turn depends heavily on the skills and qualities of leaders, and their commitment to maintain a safety culture, because at the end of the day, how you apply knowledge is what leads to effectiveness.
To maintain a safety culture (behavioral safety) you must move beyond compliance with external rules, to a culture of self-regulation. One that includes every individual ‘from the top to the bottom,’ making the individuals responsible for actions and behavior taken to improve safety, rather than seeing them as being imposed from the outside. Superyacht crew from deck hands to interior personell cannot deliver good safety performance without officers, captains, and management providing and setting a safe working environment.
Dominic Cooper Ph.D one of the world’s leading authorities on Behavioral Safety describes this in his book, ‘Behavioral Safety A framework for Success’ as :
”A process that creates a safety partnership between management and the workforce by continually focusing everyone’s attention and actions on their own, and others, safety behavior.”
Today a superyacht crew can come from all walks of life, from University or college, the maritime industry, the armed forces, and many other industries. Crew can be of mixed gender, culture, even speak different native languages. And while Captain and officers may have been in the yacht industry for several years, deckhands, interior crew, and 3rd or 4th engineers may just be on their first or second season aboard a superyacht. One thing is certain, the group of people who are selected as your crew will be as diverse in their communication, decision-making, and leadership preference’s and styles as their culture.
A brief look at the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) and various flag state accident reports finds continuing circumstances that show even with the best technically trained, qualified, and properly (STCW) certified crew, even with written SMS and onshore management, on-board audits and compliance to codes, accidents continue to occur at relatively high frequency. Many of these reports point to poor understanding of mental models, communication and leadership preferences or styles, and highlight the results of loss of situation awareness.
As see in the accident reports, this can quickly turn docking, launching and operating a tender, recovering an anchor or even washing a yacht down, from low risk, to high risk, and can result in loss of time, money, environmental damage, personal injury and even loss of life.
Last year saw five superyacht crew tragically loose their lives, and many near misses, some reported while many not. Some even turn up on forums and blogs, while others are captured and posted on youtube. Frequently pictures and videos can be found on blogs and FB before the news even gets out to owners or managers. Even set piece pictures on superyacht sites and video brochures often showcase poor situation awareness.
With running expenses, insurance, safety and liability issues in the millions of dollars, it’s just good financial risk management to move beyond compliance, and let standards be enhanced by best performances, instead of being discouraged by the worst. Crew resource management can provide the tools, skills and environment to get your superyacht moving beyond compliance.
A relaxed culture of ‘anything goes’, or its ‘OK until someone gets hurt, not only undermines the implementation of any safety management system (SMS), it creates a mindset that does not ask questions. Crew cannot afford a passive attitude, especially when it comes to the implementation of a SMS. Rather, they should be fully alert and aware of the potential hazards aboard their yachts. It is easy for even experienced personnel to underestimate the potential effects that poor leadership and non functional communication can have on the jobs being performed, whether it has to do with safety of service.
Remember simply holding a certificate of competency does not necessarily mean the holder can, or will do the job properly. Much has been written as to why aircrew act against their experience and training and have accidents, and much of this is mirrored within the maritime and superyacht industries. In their book ‘Human Factors in Multi-Crew Flight Operations’, Harry W. Orlady and Linda M. Orlady list some common reasons why pilots can go against standard operating procedures (SOP). We have crossed out the word ‘Pilot’ and added ‘Crew‘ to underline the dangers that intentional non-compliance to SOP’s can brings the superyacht owner:
pilotcrew may think the established procedure is simply wrong.
pilotcrew may think the established procedures are okay for the “average” crew, but that he/she is different.
pilotcrew may think his/her procedure is either just as good or better than the one established.
pilotcrew may think the procedure is not important or not necessary – or just not worth the bother – just this once, frequently, or always.
- Lastly in some instances, the
pilotcrew does not really object to the established procedures but consciously or subconsciously just wants to defy “them” – i.e.,meaning management or authority in general.
Using crew resource management pulls all resources together and provides better backup and understanding of the human element. It develops non-technical skills that enable crew to better understand communication and personality differences, it highlights different perspectives in workload levels and service needs, empowers crew to spot the little nuances in non-verbal communication and interpersonal behavior. CRM gives crew the ability to recognize each other’s strengths, and become aware of blind spots, both as individuals and within the team.
Moving beyond compliance with crew resource management (CRM) not only is good financial risk management (by way of lowering running expenses), but gives owners added confidence in their personal safety. By enhancing and emphasising the roles of all crew within CRM, behavioral safety become the norm (whether owners are aboard or not).
Ask your management company about CRM aboard your superyacht, and take comfort in knowing you get an upgrade of service, combined with assurances of higher safety and better relaxation.