Guest Blog from AW Ship Management - Safety Culture

Safety Culture Benefits of Whole Ship Team Management

Daniel Taylor, Commercial Manager, AW Ship Management Ltd

In April 2017, a vessel managed by AW Ship Management suffered a minor grounding. While the grounding did not result in any loss of life, injury, or pollution, the post-incident investigation carried out by AW did raise some concerns with the management of the incident. AW recommended that improvements should be considered in the areas of ship team management, situational awareness and on-board communication, particularly between the deck and engine departments.

These results led to a broader conversation within the company on how the on-board team management could be extended to a holistic whole ship team management concept involving the shipboard deck and engine teams, and shore-based staff at AW.

As a result, the decision was taken to develop a course to instil a whole ship team management ethos, involving as many ship’s staff as possible in all ranks, as well as shore based management and owner’s staff to encourage the idea of a broader ship team being in place at all times. This would have the effect of improving both shipboard and ship/shore communication, as well as having supplementary effects in the improvement of the whole ship safety culture.

The course was designed by AW in conjunction with specialists NJC Associates and has been delivered on four vessels managed by the company to date. Attendees from all ranks have been involved in the course, as well as AW staff in all positions ashore. As a part of the course roll-out, the results of the original incident investigation were addressed by having available crew that were on board at the time of the grounding attend the course, thus closing the loop on the specific on-board communication issue.

The course explores through practical exercises and discussions what makes effective teams, and the characteristics of high performing teams. This knowledge is then applied to the structure of AW managed vessels as the course attendees see it, with open discussion and opinions encouraged from all participants, regardless of position or rank.

Team development is explored, including methods of assessing whole team performance and the use of feedback to generate areas for development. Barriers to team development are discussed, including the issues raised by individual motivations, style, and approaches.

An important part of the course deals with how individuals can deal with team members with contrasting styles, how to identify different social styles, and how to reduce individual conflicts within teams.

The course concludes with an in-depth discussion on how the lessons learned could be applied to the management of ship teams responsible for AW-managed vessels and gathers feedback from course participants.

To date, AW have delivered this course to 30 shipboard personnel and 8 office staff. Feedback has been positive, with participants appreciating the intent of the company to bring shipboard and shore departments together to promote collaborative working practices and by extension the promotion of a just Safety Culture on board vessels.