While observing the manning of vessels throughout my carreer, I noticed how high demand causes lowering of competence standards, thus allowing access to uneducated and incompetent individuals, who are willing to simply exist onboard, eat for free and spend some time away from home.

Meanwhile, the accidents caused by such practice are “addressed” by adding more paperwork and implementing additional checklists which are designed to shift responsibility from employer to Master.


While thinking about it I asked myself how should one cope with such reality. I came up with simple guidelines, aiming to help people address their own issues and focus on self improvement of their lacking skills. The opinions written bellow are not for “someone else”, but for every one of us.


These are the MINIMUM requirements for a person to work on a vessel. By that I mean the basics, the things which are thought in elementary schools in western world – how to read and write, use the computer and type, speak decent English and communicate.

  • There are ratings onboard who can’t speak English at all. There are also OFFICERS who do understand some English, but not enough to make a conversation or explain something. That becomes dangerous when such officer is required to communicate with crane operators, delegate tasks to the ratings, instruct approaching vessels, or coordinate helicopters.
  • There are officers and engineers who can’t use the computer or fill out a simple form or a checklist. People who are not able to read the SMS or understand simple procedures, such as bunkering checklist or a work permit. How can such person be promoted to anything above the rank of rating?
  • Most of employees are not able to read the SMS or understand planned maintenance system. Therefore the files are not updated, inventories are neglected, machinery maintenance is forgotten, etc. People simply refuse to learn or know about the system, but instead they just do what they know and dismiss everything else.
  • Some people (in my opinion) never attended even the elementary school. They may have the certificate of completion, but I doubt they were ever there.


There is a certain level of knowledge that can be used as a foundation when we try to teach someone or train them to do something. If a person comes onboard without ability to think reasonably, or basic knowledge about simple things, there is nothing we can teach them – there is no time to start from scratch. I can’t teach them in two months what they were supposed to be learning in school for a decade.


Computer is a tool that we all use on daily basis. The fact that we all have it doesn’t mean we can really use it. We all own a camera, but it doesn’t make us a good photographers.

Everyone holding a management level position should be able to:

  • keep track of paperwork records, which every vessel inevitably produces. This includes organising folder taxonomy, being able to find the requested document when needed, and have it all arranged in a logical way which will enable other people to easily find it. We are not alone here, and our work has to be well organised so others can take over once we leave.
  • Keep records of email communication (Outlook) and organise it in a way that will enable the reliever to find what he needs. This requires minor level of knowledge, but more importantly it requires the effort to do so.
  • Input and work with data (Excel). Vessel is required to facilitate accurate reports, which have to be generated manually by the person competent to do so. Person who bothers to learn a bit more than the basics can do the job quickly and effortlessly, while one who believes his skill level is “good enough” is inefficient, and he will spend his whole day doing the same job. On top of that, the mentioned job will be used as an excuse for not doing anything else. Lack of knowledge leads to extreme inefficiency and there comes a point where “hard work” is just a waste of time.
  • Produce safety trainings for crew (PowerPoint), related to safety flashes and other external information that we have to pass to the crew. Importance of training cannot be understated. Other than mandatory training, sometimes we need to produce materials to educate crew about ship-specific issues which we want to resolve. If we are not capable of that we will have the crew of simpletons who repeat their mistakes.
  • Write decent handover reports (Word). I can’t stress enough how shocked I am by the handover reports the people produce. It has an enormous effect on the vessel, because an off-signer takes his knowledge with him, and leaves nothing onboard. The on-signer is left unaware of anything that happened during past few months, which usually causes expenses, double orders, forgotten repairs, communication issues with others, etc.


A person should be able to convey a message, verbal or written, in a way that is easy to understand to others.

  • In verbal communication that means being able to speak to native and non-native speakers in a way they will understand.
  • In written communication (email) that means being able to summarize the facts and opinions in a way that person on the other side can understand.

We all think our communication skills are “good enough”, but that is often not true. Most people in this industry are not native speakers, therefore the lack of communication skills has to be tolerated, but only if the person strives to do better and shows improvement over time. One should demonstrate his attempt to improve communication skills over time, and that attempt (or lack of it) should be evaluated in performance report.

Personnel who neglect this are not able to contribute to the vessel, even if their other skills are satisfactory.

  • They can’t explain the problem when reporting to the office, which leads to management being unaware of the problem.
  • They can’t explain why they need to order something (justify the expense), which leads to lack of needed tools or resources onboard.
  • They can’t troubleshoot the problems or read manuals, which is the reason why they avoid reporting the problem to anyone. Hidden problem comes with extra cost once it’s inevitably found.
  • They can’t communicate with colleagues effectively, causing dangerous misunderstandings, lost time and other kinds of “friction”.
  • They can’t train the crew or teach others about anything. Knowledge sharing is important, and if officer can’t conduct a safety meeting or a toolbox talk he should not be allowed to sign a paper which declares he did it.
  • They avoid communication, because we all tend to avoid things we are not good at.

Ability to communicate is neglected lately, and it is a reason for concern. There is no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to communication. Employee should be encouraged to IMPROVE and DO BETTER. If he doesn’t, he should be fired.


Most people think they are “good enough” in what they do. In their opinion, the fact they are employed confirms that. Unfortunately, that is not true. Most of them are employed only because of a high market demand, so even those who can’t speak English and don’t know much about their job are hired.

That is tolerated for obvious reasons, but we should not put up with it indefinitely. We can tolerate if the new hires need time to adjust, but if no improvement was observed during the contract, the person should not be reemployed.


Nothing in the world can take a place of persistence.

  • Talent will not. Nothing in the world is more uncommon than unsuccessful people with talent.
  • Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
  • Education will not. The world is full of educated idiots.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
This is why you must strive to learn and do better every day. Even if you are not good at particular task, you will become better at it if you persist.


If the person poses a decent BASIC EDUCATION, speaks some English, knows how to use a computer, and most importantly IS WILLING TO CONTINUOSLY IMPROVE his skills, then he should have no problem working onboard. He will be able to acquire experience and knowledge, which will subsequently transform into skill, exerting efficient and useful work. Such person will be respected by the crew for his contribution to the vessel, instead of despised by others who would otherwise have to pick up his slack.