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“Learn, Unlearn, Relearn” – Q&A with Tommy Olofsen, OSM

It is important for any seafarer to get the right qualifications and skills that are necessary for them to excel on board, and in their future careers. In a time of change, organisations might find competence management difficult, but there are systematic ways to ensure seafarers’ full competence.

During CrewConnect Digital Week, Tommy Olofsen, Chief Commercial Officer of OSM Group, defined seafarer competence as “knowledge and understanding, and proficiency and attitude required to perform a task safely and successfully to a defined standard”. Olofsen talked about STCW compliance, BIMCO standards compliance, and flag & industry best practice standards, all of which can be achieved with a well-organised competence management system. But to do this, Olofsen believes in a holistic system that allows seafarers continuous professional development regardless of their position, that takes into consideration personal differences, and that is regularly updated and reviewed.

CrewConnect Digital Week, Tommy Olofsen, Chief Commercial Officer, OSM Maritime Group, Critical Elements of Seafarer Competence Management

Olofsen now answers the questions from the audience that we did not get to on the day.

Q: How are seafarers treated in the current scenario? What do you think, is their hardship and work justified?

A: Seafarers today are getting the attention they deserve: International Day of the Seafarers, 25June (Global); National Seafarers Day, last Sunday of Sept (Local, Philippines); MLC 2006; Mandatory rest period; competitive salaries; among others.

The differentiators are shipboard conditions along with company policies and procedures. We at OSM are constantly striving to give our seafarers the best welfare and working conditions.

Q: To sustain [the system you outlined in your webinar], you need to alter the company culture to one where managers at all levels, including on board, are trained to say "How do I help you and how do I support you?" and replace the old "I speak, you listen" mentality that is so commonplace in maritime. How have you achieved this to support your CMS?

A: It is all about people – getting and having the right people with dynamic attitude towards change.

Implementing a competence management system needs support from all levels of the organization but especially from top management. Competence management not only focuses on the technical competencies but also, and I can say, more importantly, on the leadership and safety behaviour competencies. The leadership competencies should specify the observable behaviours that a leader (whether shore based or onboard) in the company is required to display. Examples of leadership competencies are:

  • People development
  • Conflict management
  • Mentoring

Top management should then approve a process where leaders at all levels are held accountable on these competencies and provided training/mentoring if required until the whole organization adopts this approach as part of the company culture. Integration of the competence management and performance appraisal process is an essential element for success.

Q: Is automation and digitalization going to change demand for human/soft skills?

A: The more automation and digitalization there is, the more demand for soft skills can we expect. For most international companies, it is now becoming more challenging for managers to have that personal touch with a member of his or her team from across the globe when communication is sometimes through Skype or other similar video/audio technology. Managers of today need to strike a balance of saving cost and developing a personal working relationship within a global team to be successful.

Vessel managers or ship superintendents have the same challenge when they are managing the senior management on their vessels. However, with internet now available on most ships, video conferencing instead of emails helps develop teamwork and camaraderie. This should be then supplemented by regular ship visits and also visits to the office from the ship teams. Communication and teamwork are essential ingredients for success and managers at all levels must be clever to use technology to their advantage rather than let technology take over.

Q: On one of your slides, you talked about linking up on performance bonus. I think there is doubt about the performance of bonus systems? How do you see this in OSM?

A: It’s human nature to ask, what’s in it for me? It is what you and I ask when we are applying for a job or going for a promotion. While performance bonus may not always be the answer to each individual depending on where they are in their careers, being rewarded for an extraordinary performance is always well received in our experience.

Q: Is CSM applied consistently across the roles throughout OSM, up to Vessel Manager roles and even higher?

A: Yes. Implementing a competence management system needs top management support. There should be a clear line of sight from the CEO to the AB on board on how important the successful implementation of the CMS and active participation of all at all levels to the success of the company’s strategic business goals.

Q: How do you ensure sufficient time onboard to train having focus on reduced working hours, fatigue, and rest hour violations?

A: As we speak, training is ongoing on board whether a company has a competence management system in place or not. You and I were trained by those ahead of us during our time on board. What CMS brings is a standard that all officers can refer to regardless of nationality. It will be a guide to the mentor on what to focus on in the assessment of competencies as well as guide the officer to prioritise in terms of what is critical for his position or promotion. The implementation of a CMS should take advantage of this willingness to train and be trained. The CMS processes should be simple and focused on critical competencies only. CMS tasks should align with the tasks of the officers and not something additional.

Q: As a company with a well-established competency scheme, how do you freshen and continually reinvigorate the scheme to ensure it retains its impact?

A: There is nothing permanent in this world except change! Learn, unlearn, relearn!

CrewConnect Digital Week, Tommy Olofsen, Chief Commercial Officer, OSM Maritime Group, Critical Elements of Seafarer Competence Management

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