Happy crew, happy cruise: overcoming recruitment challenges

Passenger ship management companies and crewing agencies reveal their solutions to current problems

Happy crew, happy cruise: overcoming recruitment challenges
Cruises are complex operations that not only require crews to have the highest level of organisation, but also spend long periods at sea whilst maintaining an ‘always-on’ attitude

By Elly Yates-Roberts |

Cruises epitomise luxury, convenience and adventure for their passengers. But for the crew, cruises are complex operations that not only require the highest level of organisation, but also long periods at sea whilst maintaining an ‘always-on’ attitude.

According to maritime union ITF Seafarers, there were approximately 200,000 people working on cruise ships as of 2019. Following the disruption of the pandemic, recruitment challenges are rising. 

“The cruise industry, like the whole maritime sector, is facing an increasing shortage of skilled seafarers,” says Martin Springer, managing director of BSM Cruise Services, part of Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement. 

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement has followed a long-term human resources development strategy, to expand its pool of over 20,000 seafarers and improve job satisfaction. “To attract good talent and to retain them, it is not enough to just pay the crew; you must also take care of them,” says Springer. “With tailor-made training concepts, an in-house cadet programme and four state-of-the-art Maritime Training Centres, we ensure that our seafarers meet the highest demands. 

“At the same time, we invest in their well-being and satisfaction, by offering promising career opportunities, specific benefit programmes and close cooperation with organisations such as The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network.”

Crew well-being is crucial for cruise and ferry operators to ensure great passenger experiences, and BSM is not alone in realising this. Columbia Cruise Services (CCS) has invested in supporting its crew by partnering with maritime-focused organisation Mental Health Support Solutions to provide crew members with a 24-hour mental health hotline number managed by clinically trained professionals. 

At the end of 2021, CCS also partnered with Mission to Seafarers, a non-profit organisation that provides support to shipping crews, to deliver courses focused on assisting crew members with their financial and social well-being.

The enforced break resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic enabled recruitment agencies to transform operations and improve administrative processes. 

Clyde Marine Recruitment, for example, moved to a paperless office, providing measurable benefits to its daily operations in maritime recruitment. “It has increased revenue, developed a broader pool of candidates, enabled full GDPR compliance, made processes significantly faster, and improved remote working and audit capabilities,” says Ian Livingstone, managing director of Clyde Marine Recruitment. 

“The system specifically designed to solve the administrative burden of sourcing and hiring maritime personnel also allowed the employer to receive recommendations for employment. Our customers can review full candidate profile, endorse contracts, receive bank details and ensure substantive employment decisions are made, whilst avoiding the requirement for third party e-contract solutions.”

Ship management firm OSM Maritime has also recognised the recruitment challenges and capitalised on the cruising hiatus to provide a solution in the form of its new recruitment and sourcing tool, CrewMatch. “Recruiters can quickly filter using any criteria and identify seafarers who have the right certificates, courses and experience required for work onboard any vessels,” says Eirik Steen Nøding, director at OSM. “CrewMatch also provides recruiters with automation capabilities, saving significant time in the candidate sourcing process.” 

During the past year, over 60,000 registered seagoing personnel have signed up to the mobile solution, which could help to meet the personnel demands of cruise lines.

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. 

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