A Mixed Crew Complement : A maritime safety challenge and its impact on maritime education and training

Abstract: The human factor/human element starts to have a key role in accidents and incidents during shipments at sea. Investigations show that poor communications increasingly are the root for many tragedies. A possible reason for communication constraints is the growing trend to employ multicultural crews. This thesis aims to document this new challenge in the maritime industry and to endeavour to show how the Maritime Education and Training (MET) can address the problem. The lack of a company crewing policy entails a variation in management standards; it causes confusion. Therefore, it is commonly advised that a common working language be used and expressed in the company policy. It is not only substandard communication that lies behind accidents but also a lack of cultural awareness and “wrong” stereotyping. This is a worrying situation. Researchers in the maritime field have tried to quantify and describe the risks and identify possible benefits with multicultural crews. Disappointingly, the results show a strong disharmony. The industry appears not to be capable of coping with diversity or hesitates to balance eventual advantages with eventual risks. The reason could be that past research studies rather confuse the industry, instead of giving useful guidance. The research strategy, that has been used to find pros and cons in multicultural crews, perhaps has not been the best suited. This thesis aims to propagate for a professionally applied inductive strategy to phenomena related to human factor constraints in the shipping industry. This thesis is also urging MET institutions to conduct courses in cultural awareness and increase the learning goal in English to something more than bare basic. With World Maritime University (WMU) students as the prime research object, it has been found that studying in a multicultural environment is not problem free but instead creates an opportunity to increase the students’ communicative competence. This research study looks at the aspects of psychology, language and pedagogy to conclude that there is a need for courses in cultural awareness. Most likely, multicultural crews in the shipping industry are an irreversible trend. The solutions presented in this thesis focus on communications and cultural awareness and the point made is that, if courses in these two subject areas are not introduced in MET, a mixed crew will continue to be a risk factor hazarding safety at sea. The implication of the results, from a WMU point of view, is that extended understanding of different cultures is a needed subject for both students and teachers. The present, high level of study contact time makes the need for such courses even more important.