Employee Engagement in the Maritime Industry



The maritime industry is widely dispersed, with actual owners in one country, commercial administrators in another, crew managers in a third while the ship itself is always on the move. In addition, the industry has many departments such as Commercial, Technical, Operations, Crewing and the ship, which have their own organizational structure, leadership styles, work groups, and so on. And all these divisions and subdivisions have to work together to ensure organizational profitability and effectiveness. While operating, they face various challenges thanks to international conventions and the laws of many countries. As those divisions have to make a large number of decisions on the spot, they can effectively contribute to a company’s profitability only when the Mariners and crew members are properly engaged.

Now the question arises, what does the word ‘engaged’ refer to? Here, it implies to the Employee Engagement, which is a multi-dimensional concept. It can be defined as an extent to which an employee feels passionate for his or her job. It relates to employees’ satisfaction and their commitment to an organization. Employee engagement as a paradigm has been widely upheld in recent times in the shipping industry as it has shown correlations with productivity, profitability, safety, employee turnover, absenteeism, and so on. Moreover, an engaged employee will not have to be coaxed to put in an effort to take an initiative, meet organizational needs, or support and reinforce values and cultures. Instead, such an employee will be vigilant and focused and will know that he or she can make a difference to an outcome. Working in the maritime industry demands high emotional and physical labor and gives seafarers little time to rest. Under such strenuous conditions, if an employee is not engaged, it can lead to disasters such as the Cosco Busan.

On 7 November 2007, at 8:00 hours, a fully loaded 900-foot container ship, Cosco Busan, headed for South Korea. She slipped her berth in San Francisco harbor. On the San Francisco Bay Bridge, there was the Pilot, Master, Third Officer, and helmsman. The crew on the ship were new to each other, new to the ship, as well as new to San Francisco. They had joined the ship after the change of ship’s ownership. A company port Captain, superintendent engineer, and chief engineer supervised their work and operations. The Pilot, who was on duty at Cosco Busan’s con, had 26 years’ experience of navigating the San Francisco Bay waters. Before steering the big ship, he had already checked the winds and tides. He also tuned the radars and set them to the range he liked to work with. Unfortunately, around 08:30, Cosco Busan crashed into Delta Tower of the Bay Bridge. It ripped a gash 212 feet long, 10 feet high, and 8 feet deep along its port side, rupturing and bursting ballast and bunker oil tanks. To assess the damage of the collision with support tower, the Pilot decided to take the ship to an anchorage that was two miles beyond the bridge. Along the way, Cosco Busan leaked 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into the bay, which affected 26 miles of shoreline. It also caused the death of 3,000 birds from 50 species. The final cost for the environmental clean-up was estimated at US$70 million. The investigating team found that the pilot had taken a cocktail of 10 prescription drugs. As a result, he was not capable to make the correct decisions for navigation.

This incident worked as an eye-opener. Many types of research and studies were conducted. They showed that when employees were engaged, they fully absorbed in their work. And, they exerted extra effort towards their organization’s success. They took more interest in the well-being of their organization and were enthusiastic about their work. This helped them to take proactive and positive actions to further the organization’s reputation and interests.

Employee engagement can help to avoid many unwanted events from occurring. Some of the many benefits of employee engagement in the maritime industry are listed below. Employee Satisfaction: According to various researches, if employees are engaged in their work or in their organization, the level of their job satisfaction increases. Employees who are engaged and satisfied are very devoted to the success of the organization and have a high level of loyalty and commitment. They promote and support the company’s strategy, mission, and brand.

Productivity: Engaged employees are often top performers. To achieve success, they are committed to going the extra mile. It means the more engaged employees are, the more efficient and success-driven they become, which certainly leads to an increase in motivation and productivity.

Innovation: There is a close relationship between employee engagement and innovation. And if employees are engaged, they perform at a higher level. This results in bringing passion and interest to their job, which often leads to innovation in the workplace. Highly engaged employees develop a sense of ownership in their organizations by which they tend to constantly think of innovative methods to improve themselves and their teams.

Profitability: Those companies who have a greater number of engaged employees tend to have higher profitability rates. Several studies and researches have proven that when employees are engaged, they become more efficient and productive, positively affecting the company’s outcome. A study suggests that companies that have highly engaged employees generate 26% higher revenue per employee. Employee engagement leads to more efficiency and productivity of employees resulting in lesser operating costs and an increase in the profit margin.

It is, thus, not difficult to realize that when employees are fully engaged and immersed in their work, they can achieve astounding results. It is therefore imperative that employee engagement is taken more seriously because it leads to improved performance and elicits the power of employees working together for a common goal.

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