All in this text is about how to still attract people to the Marine Industry and keep them...
A look into the marine Industry over the last 50 years, I reflect on my experiences and how new officers and crew to the marine industry can still enjoy an exciting career which can expand their experience and imagination that encircles the world.
I have been involved with all kinds of ships for 65 years, doing my first transatlantic on a Cunard passenger cargo ship, when I was 5 years old. My Father was an Engineer with Cunard Line and I would often visit the ships in Liverpool when they had a 3 week turnaround. He would take my down the engineers lift which took you to a cross alleyway over the steam turbines to the working alleyway were we would go down to the butchers shop to pick up a tray of cooked chicken breasts and a large block of ice cream. This was then taken up to the Engineers wardroom were my father and the rest of the engineers would be entertaining wives and girlfriends. I was left in my dad’s cabin having ice cream and reading playboy magazines, after a while I would take a wander around the ship going through the public rooms. As my Grand mother had become an American I did several trips as a kid sailing to New York on the ships, I had a great time having the full run of the ship in the morning around 06.00 it would be a visit the Radio Room to practice the morse code keys, with the very patient Radio Officer, then I would go and visit the bridge and have a chat to the officers and have a glass of milk and a digestive biscuit. So for the 9 year old me, this looked like a very attractive lifestyle compared to the reality of living in 1960’s Liverpool.
I joined Cunard Line when at 16, had two years at college with a load of cadets who were with cargo ship companies. Then in 1971 it happened, at 18 we joined one of the Cunard transatlantic ships that was put on cruising from Bermuda to New York, it was July and the middle of summer, the ships weren’t designed for the tropics. My first experience of the engine room, where it was over 120F, was somewhat of a surprise. The transition to working 8 hours a day in a constant hot environment took a bit of getting used to, we had to take at least 8 salt tablets a day, fortunately there was always a bucket of iced water on the maneuvering platform and boiler room.
On the other hand the social side of life was pretty good, there was an Engineers wardroom and we could go out and mix with the passengers and there was a lot of young girls on board, so I was kept pretty busy, it was work hard and play hard. The food was good, every day was like a Sunday dinner, so I put on 12kg in 3 months. Three months later we joined the QE2 and that was even better.
Towards the end of the year at sea I got to experience a Cunard subsidiary cargo fruit boat that was in a turnaround in Southampton for a couple of weeks, which wasn’t bad they also had parties, but they had to invite girls from the local telephone exchange and hospital, which always seem to work quite well, must be something of the allure of ships. An example of having a good personnel department, I wanted to visit my grandmother in New York and as QE2 was on Med cruises, the company allowed me to hitch a ride on an ACL container ship from Liverpool. This was my first experience of the new trend of shipping, the ship Atlantic Conveyor, which was sunk in the Falklands 40 years ago this year, was a clean relatively new ship with roof fired boilers and more automated than QE2.
The food was good, nice cabins and reasonable wardroom, where the crew would gather at night. There was no video or movies in those days, so it was chatting and darts. During the day you would explore the ship and the car decks checking out the cars. When the ship arrived in Port it was possible to have 3 or 4 hours ashore but that was it.
Being at Sea between 1970 and 2000 was very good, my young brother joined the merchant Navy in 1988 and he is still at sea and puts up with the progressive erosion of perks and the change in the performance of the personnel department, in many cases the function is given to an agency were you progressively became a number and they didn’t know who or what you were, other than a job title.
In May 1982 we went to the Falklands, we actually had to be towed out of Southampton as we only had one boiler, we anchored off the Isle of Wight overnight and sorted the problem then headed to Ascension.
Being Chief Engineer from 1984 to 88, came with all the challenges of running an old steam ship at 30 knots day in day out. What was good is we managed the ship and the office was our support and really what I wanted to do was done without any micromanagement. In addition to the heavy workload, we had to go to evening cocktail parties and every 5 days held a cocktail party for around 50 guests in my cabin, my bar bill was around $1000 per week, which the company paid. At night I would then have to host a table of 12, they were always expecting me to be an old Scotsman with a beard, dinner started at 8.30 and ended around 9.45pm I would then end my day with a quick visit to the engine room and then bed before my 6.30am start with a walk through the galleys and passenger decks.
There were many a crisis one particular event was on a transatlantic 1984, when we had a main switchboard fire that left us with no power drifting in the middle of the Atlantic with all the thrust bearings on the main turbines run as they had been running at full speed with no Lub oil. Firstly we had to repair the 3.3kv switchboard and then open up the turbine bearings,36 hours later we were doing 30 knots.
In 1989 I became a superintendent, based in New York, looking after Cunard’s Norwegian fleet of 4 ships and it was good to see how they operated, and their quality of life was pretty good with an easy-going management philosophy. If they had any bad passenger comment forms, they just lost them. Unlike the British ships who sent the bad ones with the voyage returns to head office. The role allowed me to travel the world visiting ships ,planning refits and meeting shipyards often my trips took me to high end locations and flights on Concorde, as it happens I knew quite a few of the pilots, so did the take off and landings in the jump seat.
Progressively over the years more perks and authority freedoms were removed from ships officers, even on cruise ships the working life is less social, you cant drink alcohol, there are random tests and if your positive your fired. So, you can be responsible for managing a $600 million ship but you can’t manage your alcohol intake. Before the captain makes an announcement for some unforeseen situation, they must get the transcript approved by a boss ashore.
A couple years ago, I did a 4 day trip on a Tanker from Antwerp to Scotland, the Food was very poor, served at a buffet and quickly became cold, so food hygiene comes to mind. There was little to do than watch a movie in the crew mess/ smoke room, so if you don’t smoke you had to put up with the fumes. The crews are multinational so some don’t always have the desire to mix.
Some Container companies, Such as CMA GSM carry up to 12 passengers, which can add a bit to social chats at dinner and possibly a drink in the officers bar.
Having been on the Maersk Triple E, which are fantastic ships, however for the crew of around 30 there is little opportunity for socializing, the captain and Chief Engineers accommodation is one complete deck each, the mate and first engineer have half a deck each. Which sounds great but, who can you share this space with other than if you bring your family away for a less than exciting itinerary as all you will see is container terminals.
Another concept for one cruise ship new build, is a luxury pod, The goal is to evaluate the mental health, productivity, safety of the shipboard employees with a focus on the crew living quarters, with each crew member having their own space.
Shipping companies are aware that the social life on board diminished, but they seem to be attributing that to internet access, but that’s not actually the case, social life on board has died because there are no spaces or things for people to do. The only options for people are to sit in quiet small uncomfortable crew messes to watch DVDs, which is not really a social activity.
Ships are unique as they are insular, with no medical support and travel the world which brings a different set of risks.
As we know the size of a crew has been progressively reduced to the bear minimum with no allowance for crew being incapacitated. The workloads have increased, and health and wellbeing of the crew is more important than ever, as we have seen how workload and extended tours of duty have been created over the last two years. Various stress and Fatigue generated by events such as covid, which compounded the extra workload to others when crew had to isolate.
Food is an important factor both from a sustenance point of view, a feel of wellbeing and a social activity. Oil rigs I have been on make it a priority to always have good food. It’s essential to have correct hygiene practices, adequate refrigeration, correct garbage storage and regular checks on the potable water management. To reduce the possibility of food poisoning and potential strains of legionella.
Most companies have seen a reduction in the galley staff, and now they only have a cook and a mess man, and this has impacted the quality of the food on board, as the average cook can only produce a limited variety of food. They will take short-cuts, like deep frying everything before it gets cooked in the oven or served. That said with the right training, well-structured standardized menus and a more reasonable budget for food would provide a healthy diet.
1. Accommodation – enhancing habitability through indoor environmental quality factors
2. Recreation and social activities – providing and equipping recreational spaces for social activities on board, every 2 weeks maybe allow an extended 8 hours in port.
3. Communication and social support – providing internet connectivity, and monitoring seafarer satisfaction
4. Food and catering – provide routines for testing of potable water to ensure a suitable quality
5. Management and policy – ensuring that there are equal opportunities for seafarers and shore staff and encouraging a harmonious valued working environment with good HR support.
The WHO have said that improved ventilation is the number one improvement to mitigate the risk of covid transmittion it is also a major factor for crew wellbeing, it assists with a good sleep, it eliminates allergies, the smell of smoke. Ventilation also neutralizes over 240 harmful gases such as ammonia, carbon monoxide, Ethylene.
Contagion is caused by the following:
• Silent spreaders who are asymptomatic, these people breath viruses and contaminate the air and surfaces.
• Surface contamination, 80% of viruses are picked up from any surfaces. Viruses can live on metal for several days or weeks.
An accommodation that has that has oxygen clusters also increases the shelf life of food, kills bacteria throughout the living quarters, mitigates the risk of food poisoning, the spread of colds and flu.
In recent years we have all experienced some form of quarantine and I think I am not wrong in saying that we did not like it.
The origins of Quarantine date back to the 14th century, and it was intended to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. However, that time it was less understood that over time oxygen with sunlight is a natural sanitiser of bacteria, viruses, and odors
Ships can now become safe havens by implementing a wholly natural process known as the oxygen cluster process (OCP®), which has millions of “oxygen cluster grenades” in an electron shower that actively seek out microbes including all bacteria, Covid and Noro viruses, in addition to all other microbes including molds, yeast and smells on any surface and in the air.
The unit is positioned in the air handling unit
For a small investment it provides a peace of mind to the crew that they are being protected and the risks of illness are greatly reduced at the same time living in a healthy environment. This is very important as there are no medical support on board the ship.
The positive impacts are:
Reduces the chance of extra workloads on crew, when individual crew might be incapacitated by illness. Less chance of quarantining ship or repatriation of crew. Reduces the possibility of contagion communications with port authorities and head office. Can reduce the ships carbon footprint by being able to reduce chiller loads.
Various air quality technology
Ship managers need to consider all the implications of each system as there are other products that can provide various degrees of air quality:
• UV light – only kills viruses as the slowed air passes over the lamp, also at a wavelength to kill viruses UV-C bulbs can burn when humans are exposed to the light, in addition the bulbs often contain mercury which can produce ozone (O3) and has been proven to be dangerous above 3ppm.
• HEPA filters – They are designed to trap particles and fight bacteria not viruses as they are too small and pass through the filter.
• Hydroxyls- Have a lower concentration and whilst these act in a similar concept to OCP, they produce OH which is less pragmatic because they are deficient in electrons and are chaotic free radicals, which will take longer to kill viruses and be more spasmodic, in addition they accelerate oxidization and the aging process of materials and people. They can trigger cancer and heart diseases.
• Ionisation - only kill viruses as the air passes over the element but can promote respiratory problems and should not be used where electronics are present.
• 100% Fresh air achieves very little other than a virus free air supply that requires an additional 50% energy and chilling capacity. OCP produces a shower of invisible electrons that specifically target all viruses and will extinguish free radicals and are used in hospitals for that purpose. Oxygen clusters sanitizes the air and surfaces without any adverse impacts.
The oxygen cluster system comes with a 100% manufacturers satisfaction Guarantee
It’s been proven in real life situations that oxygen clusters stops contagion in closed working environments, it’s been tested by Government authorities in covid hospitals and proven to kill viruses in the air and on surfaces. It has many other attributes that improve the ambiance of the accommodation areas, improving the well being of crew and passengers. Apart from covid people don’t want to catch Flu, colds, food poisoning or smell bad odors.
The cost of a unit will pay for itself when even one case of illness is prevented. It will last the life of the ship and will only need the exchange of the electrodes every 14 months, which is only for a QA function as normally there is no deterioration in performance and only costs a few hundred dollars.
To be at sea in the 2020’s is still an interesting profession and as I am told by my children its relative, as the young adults of today don’t know any difference, it still represents an exciting adventure compared to many land based professions. It’s also good to see an increase of female officers joining the Merchant Navy. The industry allows participants the opportunity to experience a lot more in life and whilst the runs ashore are reduced, from time to time you will do refits in different countries, like me your career could allow you to get involved with Cruise ships, container ships, tankers, oil rigs, supply ships and Mega yachts, you also get the opportunity to work in different countries, which really gives you a varied network of people/friends. In this Industry you could meet someone you haven’t seen for 20 years and you just pick up where you left off, Marine people like marine people so you can be anywhere in the world and you are able to meet someone with mutual interests.
To attract the right quality of people ship owners should look at the crews as part of the family and from experience the Danish and French companies seem to promote the wellbeing of the crew. It’s a well known fact that being appreciated is more important than salary. Happy employees are smarter workers, they make better decisions when they're not bogged down by fear and anxiety.
John has held executive positions and has been involved in all aspects of worldwide shipping, offshore and repair Industry. He has specialist knowledge in many aspects of ships, Hotel services, Marine Engineering, virus contagion, water safety management, hazardous materials and ship recycling. The marine Industry has given him the opportunity to operate in a variety of countries dealing with different organisations and has managed people of different nationalities and cultures.
Senior Marine Principal
Excepting one, the pictures are provided by the author of the text.
Please don’t hesitate to contact Mr. John Chillingworth if you would like to find more details or if you like to discuss the pictures.
The details about the pictures are provided in the order of display of the pictures on the page.
RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH 2 -1986 before her last transatlantic under steam
Entertaining some passengers
In the Tech office.
Various Entertaining (1st picture)
Icebergs the night before South Georgia.
8 to 12 watch Ashore in South Georgia
Cruising the South Georgia harbour
Various Entertaining (2nd picture)
The QE2 Engineering department 1986 (the “funnel photo”)
On the wing with the flight crew at Washington airport on route to Miami.
Justin Little, manager Atlantic Marine his Dad was in the funnel Photo back in 86.
Maersk Triple E containership
Luxury pod on cruise ship
How diseases are spread in the air and on surfaces
The oxygen cluster process (OCP®) unit is positioned in the air handling unit
Photo by Christelle BOURGEOIS on Unsplash
Hardcover book on a yellow couch with pillow with sailor
John Chillingworth, self-portrait
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