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The Effective Crew Project, led by Southampton Solent University, examines the benefits and challenges associated with the implementation of either a stable or a fluid crewing strategy on board merchant vessels. This three year project started in April 2017 and is kindly sponsored by the Lloyds Register Foundation and the TK Foundation.

The Effective Crew research develops findings from a pilot study conducted by the same research team and will draw upon best practice from stakeholders within the maritime industry. Data will also be examined from other industries to compare best practice and draw on lessons learnt for the maritime industry to improve safety, welfare and efficiency at sea.

Project objectives

  • Examine the impact on safety and efficiency of implementing stable or fluid crewing strategies within the Merchant Navy.
  • Provide new data in an area where the current information is primarily anecdotal.
  • Share best practice from other industries which apply stable and fluid teams.
  • Develop a best practice guide on crewing assignment for the shipping industry.
  • Develop recommendations for those in the shipping industry instrumental to crew assignment.
  • Produce high impact dissemination of the research findings.

The project will ultimately highlight the benefits and limitations of implementing either a fluid or a stable crewing strategy. Drawing on the research findings and best practice from other industries, recommendations will be made on the optimum implementation of these crewing strategies, for the merchant shipping industry.

Further information

The merchant shipping industry is constantly seeking to balance different elements of the crewing equation:

  • Safety - increasing evidence of the impact of the human element in safety.
  • Cost - crewing is commonly the largest element in vessel operating budget.
  • Efficiency - the drive to demonstrate increasing cost-effectiveness in a competitive marketplace.

One of the areas impacting on this equation is how crew are allocated to vessels and how long a senior team works together on the same vessel. Does maintaining a consistent senior team deliver benefits in safety, efficiency and cost?

In the merchant shipping industry there are companies operating a stable crewing strategy where the same senior officers (top four) operate on a back-to-back basis and return to the same vessel for several trips, with all four joining and leaving the vessel at the same time. Other companies operate a fluid system where senior officers are assigned to any appropriate vessel and will sail with different senior officers every trip.

Little literature exists regarding the benefits and challenges of these strategies within the shipping industry. Captain Kuba Szymanski, General Secretary of InterManager says:

We in the shipping industry are full of great examples, but majority of them are all anecdotal and what we are missing is good, hard scientific research which would form a basis for actions.

Evidence from other industries including healthcare, aviation and professional sports suggests the benefits of maintaining stable teams include: improved safety; building team identity; sharing skills; improved efficiency, motivation and morale. These could be of significant value to the shipping industry, particularly regarding safety performance and seafarers’ welfare.

Contact us

For further information about the project, please contact:

Dr Kate Pike:
Emma Broadhurst:
Telephone: +44 (0)23 8201 6780

Media and press releases

  • Linington, A., 2017. Researchers to further investigate pros and cons of different crewing practices. Nautilus Telegraph, 21 July.
  • Anon., 2017. Researchers look into optimum crew policy. Nautilus Telegraph, 2 June.
  • Southampton Solent University, 2017. Crew efficiency project awarded £175k funding, in: Official Southampton Solent University [online], 26 May. Available here.

Project dissemination

7 November 2017: CrewConnect Global, KNect 365 Maritime, Manila, Philippines.

7 June 2017: International Conference on Maritime Policy, Technology and Education. Hosted by Southampton Solent University and Shanghai Maritime University in Southampton, UK.

3 May 2017: Research and Innovation Conference. Southampton Solent University, Southampton, UK.

Featured mentions:


Future activities

May is a busy month for the Effective Crew team. Preparations are being made to attend three conferences starting with an interactive session at Solent University’s Research and Innovation Conference, 2-3 May. This is followed by CrewConnect Europe (in Hamburg) where Karen Passman and Emma Broadhurst will be sharing findings from the recent project survey and interviews. Following that, some of the team will also be attending one of our sponsors' conference - Lloyd's Register Foundation’s International (London) towards the end of the month.

An article inspired by the project is also due to be featured in April’s edition of Dispatches magazine by Intermanager. 

Current activities

The team continues to work on the industry case studies and data analysis from the interviews with maritime stakeholders. The findings will form part of the final project report and recommendations to the industry.

Past activities

CrewConnect Global
In November project members Dr Kate Pike and Chris Wincott presented for the second time at CrewConnect Global in Manila. The international audience was told about the project’s progress and invited to participate in the research.

Data collection
The first phase of data collection through an online survey is now complete. The survey was specifically aimed at seafarers, insurers, recruiters, ship managers and owners.

London International Shipping Week
Team members attended two events held as part of London International Shipping Week in September 2017. The events provided the team with the opportunity to inform and engage with maritime stakeholders and raise awareness of the project.

Related reading

BUSHE, G.R. and A. CHU, 2011. Fluid teams: solutions to the problems of unstable team membership. Organizational dynamics, 40(3), 181-188

COROVIC, B., and P. DJUROVIC, 2013. Research of Marine Accidents through the Prism of Human Factors. Promet - Traffic & Transportation, 25 (4) pp. 369-377

EDMONDSON, A.C., 2003. Speaking Up in the Operating Room: How Team Leaders Promote Learning in Interdisciplinary Action Teams. Journal of Management Studies, 40(6), 1419-1452

FISHER, S.G., T.A. HUNTER and W. MACROSSON, 1998. The structure of Belbin's team roles. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 71(3), 283-288

GLASSOP, L., 2002. The organizational benefit of teams. Human Relations, 55(2), 225-249

HUCKMAN, R.S., B.R. STAATS and D.M. UPTON, 2009. Team familiarity, role experience, and performance: Evidence from Indian software services. Management science, 55(1), 85-100

KATZ, R., 1982. The effects of group longevity on project communication and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, , 81-104

SOARES, C.G., and A.P TEIXEIRA, 2001. Risk assessment in maritime transportation. Reliability Engineering and System Safety, 74 (3) pp299-309

TUCKMAN, B.W., 1965. Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological bulletin, 63(6), 384

WALTERS, D., and N. BAILEY, 2013. Lives in Peril Profit or Safety in the Global Maritime Industry?. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillian   

WEGNER, D.M., 1987. Transactive memory: A contemporary analysis of the group mind. Theories of group behavior. Springer, pp.185-208


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