Tanker operator Transpetrol needed to tighten up crew evaluation, training and monitoring. Maritime personnel and cost controller Carl Groven and marine HSEQ superintendent, Thor Erik Hagen, relate their experience with training provider, Seagull
Transpetrol is a Belgium-based, independent ship-owning company with a history stretching back over 40 years. It has a workforce of about 30 employees on shore in four different countries and a dedicated pool of about 400 seafarers. Acquiring and maintaining a fleet of premium tonnage is one of the company’s highest priorities and that can only be achieved with properly trained and qualified staff.
This is the company’s most indispensable asset and Transpetrol has a 95% completion rate for its training programs within its fleet, achieved in an impressive 18 months.
The two men responsible for this success are the maritime personnel and cost controller Carl Groven and marine HSEQ superintendent, Thor Erik Hagen. Mr Groven is an ex-seafarer and had what many from that era would consider typical training during his time at sea.
“We did quite a lot of “on the job” training but this was not documented,” he said. “I used to work on cruise ships and we practised various emergency drills, like tackling fires onboard and evacuation procedures, but there was no supporting documentation to prove this had been done.”
He continued: “This is especially relevant for Transpetrol as being a tanker company means that we have to go through stringent office audits as dictated by the oil majors who also vet our vessels on a regular basis to ensure we conform to their high standards. We have progressed from a “tell us” world, where we told our clients what we did, to a “prove it” one where we have to prove what we do on a regular basis through documented evidence.”
Transpetrol has worked hard to meet the demands of clients for audits and to fulfil KPIs set by the oil majors. These are driven by the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) which meets to decide on best practises.
Mr Hagen said: “We are working to get our systems in place to help our onboard trainees and assessors and our office staff. This will help measure the effectiveness of our training. One of the key benefits is that these personnel evaluations are very fair and transparent and are based on measurable results. It helps the seafarer benchmark his/her progress and identify areas of improvement which can be discussed with their superiors to formulate a clear career progression plan.”
Transpetrol believes it is the first tanker company to use the Crew Evaluation System (CES) to measure the effectiveness of training. Mr Groven explains how this tool was derived: “We knew we had to prove the effectiveness of training and were trying to work out how to prove that and realised that we had the CES test. It was only used for recruitment initially, but now if somebody is looking for a promotion with us then they need to undergo a fresh CES test. We also use it to seed our cadets. When they have finished their time as cadets we firstly check and verify that they have actually learnt something and that they are ready for an officer position.”
The Transpetrol policy is that every two years a seafarer undergoes a new CES test. It applies to all ranks: if a captain has a low score on navigation, then he or she would be required to re-take that part of the CES test, after having first refreshed on navigational aids.
This is backed up by a competency and training effectiveness programme. “If something happens to the captain, then the chief officer is competent and confident enough to take over. This system helps to verify and enforce that,” said Mr Groven. “Each time a chief officer comes onboard, we check that if the captain is sick that the second in command can take over and safely drop anchor or enter a port confidently and safely, liaising with tugs and port authorities.”
“For chief officers we have identified the three competencies which are the most important”
Working with training provider Seagull, they have gone through every rank and looked through what kind of competencies are important. “For chief officers we have identified the three competencies which are the most important. We could have identified 20 more, but we feel that this would have resulted in a loss of focus,” said Mr Grovem.
“We use it for our career development and it is a guideline to illustrate what they need to do to progress to their next position. There are formal requirements like certificates that are awarded after taking the required training and you need recommendations and appraisals too, so it is another tool to document competence,” he added.
Mr Hagen said: “We also needed Seagull’s help to progress from a training logbook on paper, which is difficult enough to manage onboard but almost impossible in the office, as you have to review every book. We needed up-to-date electronic records which showed this to us and gave us a way of documenting the training records. That is where we had the help of Seagull’s expertise to help us progress from a manual logbook regime to a fully-documented electronic system.”
The influence of Seagull extends to the management of the training. “Being able to document the effectiveness of training is important and it is also vital to justify how much money is being spent on training. Sending people on courses is extremely expensive but critical and we now have a system which can justify this,” said Mr Groven.
“Being allowed to go to expensive training sessions is a great motivator for the seafarer because if you are employed by a company that doesn’t allow training the only way to develop your career is by paying for your own training. So our retention rate is extremely high because we invest in our seafarers and help them develop their careers,” said Mr Groven.
Mr Hagen noted that this is a virtuous circle: “The high retention rate means we are confident to train them because we know that most of the junior ranks will be with us right through to progressing to senior ranks.”
The Seagull-derived system is going to be extended ashore to create one standard throughout the company. “The need isn’t so pressing in the office, as we have fewer people so it is manageable by paper, but having a unified system would be good,” said Mr Hagen. Transpetrol is pleased with the relationship with Seagull. “It’s been a great experience,” said Mr Groven. “Seagull responded immediately and came up with a model which we have developed even more,” he added.
Mr Hagen said: “The ability to assist us in building our low maintenance and simple documentation for onboard practical training has been a great step forward for us.”