Transpetrol’s Carl Groven and Thor Erik Hagen explain how working with training provider Seagull allowed them to improve crew evaluation, training and monitoring
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.
Staff is the company’s most indispensable asset and Transpetrol has attained an impressive 95% completion rate for its training programs, achieved across an 18-month period.
The two men responsible for this success story 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 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 tacking 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 which 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 the KPIs set by the oil majors. These are driven by the OCIMF (Oil Companies International Marine Forum) which meets to decide on best practises.
“Our retention rate is extremely high because we invest in our seafarers and help them develop their careers”
Mr Erik 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. This 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 a Crew Evaluation System (CES) to measure the effectiveness of its training. Mr Groven explained how this tool was derived: “We knew we had to prove the effectiveness of training and we realised that we had the CES test [but] it was only used for recruitment initially. 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. This 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 must be competent and confident enough to take over and 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 then the second in command can take over and safely drop anchor or enter a port confidently and safely, liaising with tugs and port authorities.”
“We have progressed from a ‘tell us’ world, to a ‘prove it’ one”
Working with training provider Seagull, Transpetrol has gone through each rank and determined the importance of various competencies. “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 career development and it is a guideline to illustrate what they need to do to progress to their next position,” he said. “There are formal requirements and certificates are awarded after taking the required training; you need recommendations and appraisals too, so it is another tool to document competence.”
Mr Erik Hagen added: “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 gave us a way of documenting the training records. Seagull’s expertise helped us progress from a manual logbook regime to a fully documented electronic system.”
Seagull’s influence 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 and we now have a system which can justify this,” said Mr Groven.
The system is also a great motivator, noted 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.”
Mr Erik Hagen explained that the whole process 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 [and] progress to senior ranks.”
The Seagull-derived system is now going to be extended ashore, to create a standard throughout the company. ”Having a unified system would be good,” said Mr Erik Hagen. Transpetrol is pleased with the relationship with Seagull. “It has been a great experience,” said Mr Groven, “Seagull responded immediately and came up with a model which we have developed even more.”
Concluded Mr Erik Hagen: “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.”