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The project

Mentoring is seen as a 'vehicle' to allow knowledge and experience to be shared in a trusted relationship. It has a two-way function supporting personal growth in both career advancement and welfare in equal measures.

Mentoring is described as a

"fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person." (Shea, 1997)

Mentors themselves are described as

"role models, advisers, supporters, network enablers and sources of wisdom, experience and inspiration. The most important characteristics of a good mentor (other than expertise and experience) include a genuine desire to be helpful, good communication skills, and patience." (Goldberg, 2016)

The Mentoring Seafarers Project recognises the important role that mentoring can play in developing people's skills, enhancing their welfare and improving safety. As such, the project has been established to explore the range and remit of various mentoring schemes being used within shipping companies internationally. The project will look to raise awareness to sustainable mentoring initiatives and additionally encourage best practice to ensure long-term benefits in education and well-being are considered for the seafaring community. This project will be run in collaboration with the maritime trade union, Nautilus, with funding from the ITF Seafarers' Trust.

The Gender Empowerment and Multicultural Crew (GEM) study, conducted by Pike et al, from 2015-2016, examined isolation, gender and multicultural crew issues. The research highlighted mentoring for seafarers as an accessible and relatively low-cost recommendation from its findings, particularly for those in the early stages of their career. The benefits of mentoring were widely discussed throughout the GEM Project and demonstrated that there are many initiatives being undertaken by shipping companies for all ranks serving on board that are not widely known. Therefore, this project aims to further examine mentoring for seafarers in its many varied forms (both formal and informal schemes) to highlight and widely publicise the best practice being undertaken in this area.

Project aim

The project aims to encourage and raise awareness of sustainable mentoring initiatives as best practice within shipping companies to provide long term welfare benefits to the seafaring community.

Objectives

  • Review the value of mentoring and its current place within the seafaring community.
  • Demonstrate how mentoring can help and support the seafaring community from a welfare, safety and economic perspective.
  • Conduct an international shipping company audit of current mentoring schemes.
  • Development of a report to highlight the best practices of mentoring on board, and other tools to disseminate and highlight best practice and awareness of it to the industry.

Introduction

The Gender Empowerment and Multicultural Crew (GEM) study, conducted by Pike et al. from 2015 – 2016, examined isolation, gender and multi-cultural crew issues. The research highlighted mentoring for seafarers as an accessible and relatively low cost recommendation from its findings, particularly for those in the early stages of their career. Mentoring was seen as a support mechanism aiding welfare by enhancing equality within the workplace for women and men. The benefits of mentoring were widely discussed throughout the GEM Project and demonstrated that there are many initiatives being undertaken by shipping companies, for all ranks serving on board, that are not widely known. Therefore, this project aims to further examine mentoring for seafarers in its many varied forms (both formal and informal schemes) to highlight and widely publicise the best practice being undertaken in this area.

Engineer cadet being mentored in the workshop at Warsash

Background

Mentoring has been part of seagoing lore for centuries with the mentor traditionally being the ship's captain. Many commercial and academic studies have highlighted the importance of mentoring across maritime and other industries as a way of supporting learning, providing advice and a listening ear based on the principal of passing on knowledge and helping others. In the earlier part of this decade, it is apparent that mentoring was a significant part of seafaring life with studies such as Nautical Institute's Mentoring at Sea, the 10-minute challenge (2012) and published articles including Golberg, 2013 and IHS Safety at Sea 2013. However, more recently this impetus seems to have declined, with little published literature about mentoring in the maritime industry available after 2014.

Despite this, mentoring is still recognised as an important experience within maritime in supporting the ongoing development of skills and welfare of individuals. During the 2014 National Seafarers' Week, Stephen Hammond, UK Government and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, recognised the value of mentoring and quoted the philosopher John Locke saying: "Education begins the journey, but good company and reflection must finish it."

In 2013, Kevin Slade of Northern Marine Management made a presentation to members of the Nautical Institute about the meaning of mentoring in the 21st century. He suggested that because of shorter periods of qualifying sea service to gain certificates of competency, and faster promotions, there is an increasing requirement to provide seafarers with the necessary skillsets for advancement, in knowledge, management and practical skills. Mr Slade also said that seafaring culture must encourage and allow mentoring to take place as a matter of routine and not of chance. (Slade, 2013)

Officers on board ship

Dr Andy Norris discusses two-way and reverse mentoring in The Navigator journal in 2017. As technology evolves, he talks about how younger seafarers who have not been influenced by years of using older equipment are more adaptable to using different systems. Norris says that reverse mentoring with younger seafarers, where mentors and mentees share information, will be a valuable asset as technology drives major changes within the industry. (Norris, 2017)

The mentoring seafarers research will help to demonstrate the numerous benefits of mentoring, including the impact it has on seafarers' welfare, enhancing safety, and ultimately making financial savings. Mentoring can provide a greater opportunity of equality for male and female seafarers within the industry, especially at the early stages of their careers, and is seen as a support mechanism which can help new seafarers feel less isolated. Mentoring can also help to deliver welfare and professional advancement. The project has significant implications for improving retention within the industry.

Survey release

The survey closed on 28 May.

Thank you to all those who participated. We will now be conducting further interviews with a selection of those who have volunteered, analysing data  and reports will be disseminated in due course.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact a member of the team.

Media and press releases

  • InterManager Dispatches Magazine, issue 24: Mentoring - Bridging the gap or simply papering over it? May/June 2018.
  • Lloyd's Register Foundation: Safety improvements in the fishing and passenger ferry industries workshops. Mentoring and the importance of sharing experiential knowledge after seafaring certification is issued discussed. April 2018.
  • Nautilus International launch the Mentoring Seafarers Project surveys inviting all seafarers and industry associates to participate. April 2018.
  • UK branch conference. Nautilus, November 2017.
  • Nautilus welcomes plans for 'best practice' guide to mentoring. Nautilus, 3 October 2017.

Project dissemination

Wide dissemination of the research and its outputs will be made and reported here. High impact dissemination of the research findings are crucial in helping shipping companies without a mentoring scheme to consider the significant welfare, safety and economic benefits of starting one.

Officers on board ship

Current activities

Data will soon be collected through two online surveys which will be circulated to shipping owners and managers, as well as seafarers and cadets. The data collected will demonstrate the mentoring schemes that are currently in operation throughout the industry as well as the experience of those being mentored. A link to these surveys will be accessible from this page.

The diagram below demonstrates the aims of the surveys, to investigate 'what is out there?' as an audit function and the perception of 'what is working?' This in turn will highlight 'best practice' within the industry.

Mentoring audit graphic

Future activities

Both surveys will be rolled out in April 2018 and there will also be details in the May 2018 edition of Nautilus Telegraph. Following this, further more in-depth primary data collection will take place after this research phase. The findings will form part of the final project report and the basis of recommendations for the industry.

Related reading

Sponsorship

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