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How to be great at managing operations on the ship

5 min read
18.09.2020

How to be great at managing operations on the ship

When managing business operations on a ship, it is important to keep all business processes under control. In a shipping company, the basis of effective management and growing productivity is the team’s understanding of their responsibilities. A competent manager, not only fulfills his/her responsibilities in high quality but also knows how to optimize the work, how to track results and how to act based on the analysis of those, to adjust workflows at all levels of the process. These include commercial operations, onboard security, purchase of technical equipment and much more.

In this article, we will discuss 5 recommendations, which will help you successfully manage the shipping business, as well as preserve and even improve the efficiency of marine freight.

  1. Know your responsibilities

    The manager in charge of business processes on board has a wide range of responsibilities. You will be involved in the daily operations of the vessel, which relate to different organizational activities. Your responsibilities will include maintenance of safety standards, proactive participation in critical situations, optimization of the work in all departments, monitoring and analysis of the entire process to prevent possible risks and increase productivity. There are a lot of tasks onboard, so before you do anything, see if there is anyone on the ship that can skillfully cope with a specific task. See if it is possible to delegate some of the tasks and distribute the entire pool of operations in the most efficient way possible.

    Thus, monitoring and analyzing productivity becomes a priority for the ship manager. If you try to micromanage the crew along with fulfilling your own responsibilities, it may have a negative effect on the whole process.

  2. Establish a system for periodic evaluation and analysis of your work

    The understanding of where is the line between your responsibilities and those of others will help systematize all business operations. To do this, create a system of periodic evaluation and analysis of your shipping company.

    Periodic evaluation is an HR tool that helps evaluate the employees regularly, most often annually or quarterly. You can use it to identify problems or recognize someone's effectiveness. Such an assessment is useful to both parties. For the crew and other team members, this is a way to increase motivation, because if the planned goals for a certain period have been achieved, management can motivate employees by a raise or a bonus. For the manager, an analysis of the results will provide an opportunity to understand how efficiently the distribution of duties on board is arranged as well as how loaded and productive the team is.

  3. Use KPI dashboards to measure the performance of the overall operations

    Key Performance Indicators help monitor the activities of the crew, as well as all processes on board. Shipping is a quite competitive field, so it is recommended to use KPIs in order to evaluate and receive feedback on productivity. You can also use the results to compare it with your goals and with statistics of your competitors. It is important to choose your KPIs based on their priority: the ones that will influence the workflow and the organization the most should go first.

    The main KPIs on board are those related to personnel and technicals of the ship. When discussing the crew, it is the maintenance of discipline and injury rate. Among the technical KPIs, it might be the rate of equipment or system failure on the ship, the setup time at the docks, etc.

    In order to avoid calculating all the important factors manually, it is worth using KPI dashboards. You can set the frequency, customize the desired indicators, and track the results afterward.

  4. Make sure the operation procedures comply with safety standards

    To make sure all processes are efficient and seamless, you should not only design those processes but also ensure their implementation in the necessary conditions. To do this, pay attention to the security aspect of each part of the process. Each of those must meet the industry standards. There is even a ship security system designed especially for this and it’s called Safety Management System (SMS). It provides extremely detailed descriptions of all the processes carried out onboard, as well as all the policies and guidelines.

    Here are some of the main functional requirements you will need to consider:

    • Actionable instructions and guidelines for emergency situations;
    • Environmental protection policy;
    • Basic principles for reporting accidents or any other form of noncompliance;
    • Information on the hierarchy levels and lines of communication between the crew members, as well as between onboard and shore personnel;
    • Special guidelines to ensure the safe operation of ships and the protection of the marine environment in accordance with current international and flag states legislations;
    • Management review and internal audit procedures;

    According to the SMS, all safety tasks can be segmented into several main ones, those related to the crew, emergency procedures, accident reports, and documentation.

  5. Track the performance for each section of operations

    Freight includes a fairly long list of operations both on and off the board. To cope with the flow of tasks and improve efficiency, it is worth segmenting the processes to monitor the performance of each separately. The structure of your team will help make a correct division into groups and will make the breakdown process much easier. You may already have departments for each of the groups. These might be, for example, commercial operations, insurance, purchase of technical equipment, maintenance and crewing.

    Depending on the specifics of each team’s responsibilites and their division into departments, you can make a list of key performance indicators for each group of operations and track them using KPI dashboards.

In order to successfully manage operations on the ship, it is important to organize the team as well as every business process. You can do it by monitoring their effectiveness using KPIs specifically designed for the shipping industry or individual indicators depending on the of the business. Additionally, you will need to assemble task lists depending on the transportation stage, and also ensure all the necessary conditions to achieve maximum efficiency are provided on board. After everything is arranged the team will be able to work productively and carry out their responsibilities efficiently allowing your shipping company to generate profits.

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