The maritime industry is entirely dependent upon the service of seafarers. Without seafarers manning the world’s merchant fleet, the industry would come to a halt. But the sea is not an easy place to live and work. The toil of physical labour and mental stress that can come from living in this kind of environment can lead to long term health issues and incidents or accidents onboard.
It takes a huge financial and time investment to train a seafarer and retaining them for the long term is critical to protecting that investment. It is then worth considering how we can take advantage of modern technology to address crew-related issues. Though it is not a silver bullet, people analytics can help employers gain detailed insights into the status of their maritime workforce and ultimately make better decisions.
What is people analytics?
People analytics can be defined as the collection and application of data to improve critical talent and business outcomes. People analytics aims to enable HR leaders to develop data-driven insights to inform decision making, improve workforce processes and promote a positive employee experience.1
In maritime, a huge administrative burden placed on crewing managers who are responsible for managing everything from recruitment and training to compliance and professional development. Data integration and process automation technologies are beginning to streamline some of the processes involved. This allows companies to reduce costs through the digitisation of crew-related information.
Maritime startups focused on people Analytics
The recent impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that the market for crew management technology has a lot of room for growth. Start-ups like Greywing2 have developed technology in this market to use data to improve crewing decisions and processes for companies, allowing seafarers to get home safely amidst numerous country lockdowns and stringent health protocols.
The majority of crew management technology companies focus on developing ways where their solutions can reduce the friction in the traditional crew management workflows. But several emerging startups have shown that technology applications in the crew management space can go beyond optimising technical processes and also focus on the social aspects such as human factors.
One of these companies is Scoutbase3, which offers a human factors management platform for ship managers to gather ongoing anonymous feedback from crew members. The platform then generates insights for decision makers to aid in the improvement of safety practices and workflows. Scoutbase recently launched a Human Factors Kickstart programme in partnership with specialists at Lloyd’s Register to support vessel operators to integrate human factors management into their fleet.
Based in London, Signol4 is another startup within the space that uses behavioural economics and data science to influence decision making onboard. Their aim is to support crew members to make more efficient decisions when handling a vessel whilst simultaneously improving job satisfaction. The company has a successful track record in aviation, saving a major airline over $6million and 24,000 tons in eight months.
A balanced approach required
Applying people analytics in the maritime industry has tremendous potential. It can allow companies to make better long-term decisions that also considers the crew and their welfare. Identifying how each crew member and how the relationships between them can affect the daily operations of a vessel allows ship managers to have a better grasp when planning out the operational strategy of the ship. But implementing any kind of people analytics tool comes with a range of challenges and requires a balanced approach.
The main challenge in applying people analytics to the maritime industry comes from the acquisition and the transfer of the data from the ship to the shore team who will analyse and generate the insights. Gathering data from the crew also requires companies to get buy-in from crew members and ensure that the collection and processing of their data are done ethically and legally.
The data sources that could be used may come in many forms. Text data from internal company messages and emails, and numerical data from onboard surveys and reviews. The variety of data can only be limited by the creativity of how an organisation makes use of the information at hand. This is also a challenge for many maritime companies as it requires the development of a team to manage the inflow and analysis of this data. Companies that are able to do this will be able to take advantage of the insights they are able to generate to create a better experience for their crew and to ensure crew-related processes continue to improve for the benefit of everyone involved.
The adoption of people analytics in the maritime industry is still at an early stage. The majority of data analytics applications continue to focus on areas where data acquisition is easier such as engine and machinery monitoring, and vessel performance optimisation. In industries such as maritime, and offshore oil and gas where the working environments are drastically different to where traditional people analytics is applied, create unique challenges for organisations to apply technology in new and innovative ways. The value that people analytics can deliver in the maritime industry is yet to be seen on a large scale, but it is a promising technology that can further improve the crew management industry and the welfare of the seafarers commanding the world’s merchant fleet.
1. People Analytics, Gartner, accessed 2021 (www.gartner.com/en/human-resources)
2. Greywing, accessed 2021 (https://grey-wing.com/)
3. Scoutbase, accessed 2021 (https://scoutbase.com/)
4. Signol, accessed 2021 (https://www.signol.io/industries/maritime)
5. Seafair, accessed 2021 (https://www.seafair.io/about-us)