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Home > Crew Matters > Chain of Command Inefficiencies
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Chain of Command Inefficiencies

I recently did a pole on social media, which triggered an influx of messages from Crew. Nadine was one of those Crew members with something very important to say on the subject of the inefficiencies with the chain of command when reporting Crew welfare issues. Nadine had the courage to do an interview with me on Yachting International Radio to share her viewpoints with our yachting community. Below is the key content of the interview where we discuss why Crew may not be using the chain of command when reporting critical incidences and what we need to do in order for it to be effective. I want to highlight that this is a general feeling from Crew and that there are likely to be DPAs who are able to demonstrate empathy and professional practice. Our ultimate goal is understanding the needs of Crew as well as the DPAs.

Nadine – I think my yachting experience has been partly positive and negative. I have felt unsafe on board vessels, and there were times when I lost all confidence in leadership. And I know from the poll you put out there that this is a common issue.

The Crew Coach – So was there a particular response in the poll where Crew shared their experiences that struck you?

Nadine – Yes. So I think it was just when so many people complained about DPA. The DPA is the one person’s name you have to know from the time you walk onto the vessel. From my experiences, it is ultimately the person that didn’t really support the Crew the most. I mean, if we look at the DPA’s role description, they are the middleman between the vessel, flag and Management Company. Very few human resources elements are embedded in that job description. It is far from comfortable to sit with a person (DPA) that you do not know and have to be vulnerable and give them your full trust.

Typically the DPA doesn’t have a true or unbiased understanding of the situation, and regardless of what you do share, it is likely that the decision will be in favour of who is in power. And so, for instance, the management company versus a junior crew member, the management company’s voice will override the junior Crew member’s.

The Crew Coach – Okay, so I know that in your message to me, you said that DPA is simply a name in the Crew Mess. Can you expand on that a little bit more, what does that mean to you? And what do you think the role of DPA should play?

Nadine – So, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be the person in charge of Crew wellbeing or the Human Resources element. It should be a completely separate independent, land-based party that is just focused on HR and Crew. Somebody who focuses on nurturing the relationships with the Crew onboard. Where surveys and profiling are being done consistently to determine the onboard culture and whether there are any red flags that need to be addressed.

Regarding human resources, it should be a separate land-based entity where the employees have a background in psychology and organisational psychology. Like a person like yourself, The Crew Coach, who specialises in that field and acts as a neutral party.

The Crew Coach – I agree, there shouldn’t be any collusion of any sort when it comes to dealing with very sensitive situations. In order to maintain psychological safety there needs to be a rapport, empathy, trust and non-judgment.

Moving onto yacht management companies they too serve a purpose in the chain of command.  What is your understanding of their purpose from a Crew perspective?

Nadine – In my recent experiences, working with new builds, I have had to work intimately with representatives from Yacht Management. Their intentions are not bad, but what is unfortunate is the whole structure that Yacht Management Companies are built on; it is ultimately conflicting.

When thinking about the purpose of Yacht Management Companies there are three things. Firstly, they are employed by the owners, and ultimately, they need to look after the owners’ finances and therefore solely are their to benefit the owner. Whenever there’s money in play. That takes precedent. I don’t care what people say, but it does. Number two, the same structure that’s suppose to support the owner’s wealth and happiness, is also supposed to be looking after the Crew safety and security, that’s already a conflict of interest. Thirdly, we’ve got them being the closest thing we have to human resources. So now we’ve got this structure that’s supposed to protect us, but we are third in line. So that’s just never going to work.

Yacht management is trying to satisfy too many areas. Ultimately, the focus will be the owner and the finances because that’s their income, so I totally get it. But you can’t also then be a chameleon and do safety and security because I’ve worked on boats where, you know, ISM have been a little bit brushed under the carpet. I feel quite passionate about how things should be done, and that is with professionalism and transparency.

So the only way that we can fix this is you have one company, being the Management Company who focuses on finances, works for the owner, you know, that’s their drive. You have a completely separate Management Company that runs the ISM independently. And these two get managed and monitored by flag and that there’s no conflict of interest. Then you’ve got your HR consultancy company that we just spoke about, that focuses on the Crew wellbeing and the working environment.

The Crew Coach – Gosh Nadine I can see that you have put a lot of thought into this, I am most impressed! If there were twenty of me I would certainly be all in to start an HR Service for our industry so that we can protect the welfare of Crew moving forward.

At the time of publication we are in talks with DPA to understand the intracies of their roles and how they could be best supported to manage the sheer psychological complexities that accompanies their jobs.

If you would like to join in the conversation by adding your personal insights please contact karine@thecrewcoach.com