Times News Service
Muscat: Oman Ship Management Company held its ‘OSMC Officers Conference’, at the Grand Millennium, Muscat.
The conference with its unique theme, which was being held for the first time, aimed at safety control in Oman threw light on the increasing number of Omani seafarers in the company’s fleet of more than 50 vessels.
The conference with the theme, ‘Towards Behavioural Competency’, had international speakers who spoke about how one could learn from incidents and behavioural competency, seafarers’ wellness and welfare, vetting overview, insurance and supply management.
The Oman Maritime Security Centre presented an understanding of the centre and there was also a workshop on incident investigation scenarios.
Ibrahim Bakith Al Nadhairi, Chief Operating Officer, Oman Ship Management Company, a subsidiary of Oman Shipping Company, explained that the company has about 1800 crew members working on board. According to him, there is now a growing number of Omani seafarers joining the company and is one of the reasons this year the conference is being held in Oman in addition to fulfilling the in-country value principle.
Al Nadhairi pointed out that ‘Towards behavioural competency’ is a current trend in the maritime industry and it is mainly to do with the safety on board – the working culture on board of the ship as well as how office work is executed. It is a combination of three things together.
“The main outcome we are looking forward from this conference is to spread this culture within our team and make sure that everyone is committed towards implementing this culture, whether he/she is working in the head office in Oman or is on board a ship. This is also our commitment to maintaining international standards in our operations. It is an initiative to provide our team the right tools to accomplish their mission,” he said.
The Oman Shipping Company has grown from having one ship in 2003 to have 52 ships as of today. The aim is to have a fleet of 73 to 75 vessels by end of 2023. “We can only achieve that goal withour commitment to health and safety and quality. Safety, quality and environment are the prime movers for us. Oman Shipping is certified by ISO 9001 as well as ISO 14001. We also work through biannual and annual audits to ensure that we practice it and is not just on paper,” noted the COO.
The crew members are from different parts of the world so the annual event is an opportunity to meet the leadership and management team in the company. “We interact and share information, besides getting to know the company’s plans for the future. There are also question and answer sessions. The crew members on tankers are different from the crew on the bulk carriers, but these two days give them the opportunity to interact and know about the whole fleet,” said Khalil al Balushi, Marine Director.
He pointed out that technical ability and skills are important but to carry on one need soft skills. “We need to ask why an incident happened. For the next one year the company is going to focus on behavioural aspect of the seafarers.”
155 Omani sefarers
Currently there are 155 Omani seafarers working as officers on board and 160 Omani cadets who are being trained to become officers on the ships. Every year Oman Shipping recruits 20 to 30 graduates from the International Maritime College.
These graduates go through extensive selective process to make sure that the right people are chosen because working on a ship is not simple and is a big commitment where one has to be away from the family for more than three months sometimes.
“It is about working in the high seas where the environment is not that supportive yet we have many Omanis who are committed and like the industry. We continue to receive applications. Even the people we select extend their contracts to be with us on board,” explained Al Nadhairi.
To ease up life onboard the company brought in technology and specifically WiFi. The company noticed immediate positive impact on the retention of seafarers; however it also brought in reduction in socializing, which is considered crucial in sea life.
The presentation theme of Captain Trevor Bailey FNI, Vice President of the Nautical Institute, was the seafarers’ wellness, “It is to say that we all have responsibility to look after each other whether it is looking after their professional development but also being aware of their personal development – that is looking after an individual’s personal problems and encourage them to talk about it and provide help. We have a pastoral role.”
He pointed out that the maritime industry is slightly different from everything else because when seafarers are on the ship they are an isolated community. A group of 20 to 30 people working together for months need to have the skills to support each other. One has to understand that even during the daily off; the crew would still be on the ship.
The Sailor Society in the UK has developed training courses and so has the organisation called Wellness at Sea. The International Seafarers Assistance Network is also working hard to get the information out to spread awareness.
“I think it is important for career and technical managers to carry out this awareness through training courses and provide the support. The heads of department not only needs to know their ship from the technical point of view but they also need to know their ship from the personal point of view, or rather, from human point of view. That gives you an idea on whom you are dealing with. The crew on the ship is the most important asset on the ship. We need to look after the assets as best as we can,” concluded Captain Bailey.