Good Seamanship

Eessential to stay connected

Good Seamanship is not only sailing a vessel from A to B in a safe and efficient manner, but within the Wagenborg family business the result of cooperation between mariners and office staff, all of whom have the same goal, namely to manage a ship in the best possible way by assisting one another. The connection between shore and ship is crucial. That’s why Koos Zumkehr (Chartering Director) and Theo Klimp (Fleet Director) started up the programme in “Good Seamanship”. They tell us something about it. 

“It used to be that everyone at Wagenborg knew everyone else, whether you worked in an office or on one of our vessels. You even knew which football team they supported! There was a real sense of belonging. But times have changed. The company has grown. We now have a fleet of over 170 vessels, and we’ve lost sight of one another a bit.” That’s how Koos Zumkehr sketches the way Wagenborg has developed in the 30 years he’s been with the company. Theo Klimp – 20 years with the company – adds: “We want to connect people up again. The ‘Good Seamanship’ programme involves us all working hard to strengthen the involvement of the office staff and mariners with one another.” 

Family company
Over the past few months, Koos and Theo have been running a roadshow within Wagenborg to explain the various projects in the “Connecting seafarers” programme. Theo explains: “We set up the programme because of a number of serious accidents that had occurred within Wagenborg Shipping. We simply didn’t want to accept that such things could happen, certainly not within a family business. When we looked at the underlying cause of incidents, we realised that there was a lack of connection – connection in the sense of real involvement with one another, between shore and ship”. Both office staff and mariners understand the urgency of collaborating to promote a new way of working. Koos explains: “We can all contribute.

There needs to be more personal contact. Greater understanding for one another’s situation and more taking account of one another. More visits and phone calls instead of e mails. All these things can contribute to mutual trust and interrelationships, and that’s necessary to ensure safety.”

Mutual trust
The programme has now been running for several months and the projects are starting to show results. The focus is directly on connecting people up and more broadly on organisational development. “For example, all office workers who have an operational link with the ships have obtained a Safety Checklist for Contractors (VCA) diploma,” says Koos, “so as to be more aware and understanding about on-board work situations. In addition, all 170 vessels under the Wagenborg flag are receiving more frequent and more targeted visits from our crew managers, superintendents, operators, and freight forwarders. They listen to the crew and make sure that something is actually done about their comments. That helps create mutual trust.” 

Ongoing dialogue
Three times a year Wagenborg organises an Officers’ Meeting at which office staff and mariners meet to improve operational matters. Theo explains: “Our officers on board have a wealth of knowhow and information, which the company wasn’t making enough use of.

Redesigning the Officers’ Meetings has created much more of a dialogue between shore and ship, and we can now hear one another’s views on particular issues. Currently, it’s not just captains and chief engineers who attend but also lower ranking officers. And we now also involve captains and chief engineers in the selection process.” 

Wagenborg seeks to fill posts for officers with people it has trained itself. Sometimes, however, the Crewing division can’t avoid allowing lateral entry, for example by a captain. Koos explains: “It used to be that we’d take on a new captain as long as he had the proper papers, give him the keys of a ship worth 15 million euros, and ask him to call us occasionally – and then we hardly ever saw him again. That’s unthinkable nowadays! Today, captains and chief engineers take a special course and then cooperate with our crew managers at interviews to select people with the true Wagenborg mentality. That’s a good example of how close cooperation between shore and ship results in better quality within Wagenborg.” 

“Working together is essential to strengthen communication, commitment, and collaboration within Wagenborg – between offices and mariners but also between departments and divisions. ”

Theo adds: “Good Seamanship also means being responsible for one another. We firmly believe that if we work in accordance with Good Seamanship it won’t only improve our operating and safety results but also job satisfaction and mutual involvement between everybody in the company.” 

Good Seamanship within Wagenborg doesn’t just stop at a few hollow slogans; it’s now taken shape in the form of a special model that describes the elements that go to making up Good Seamanship. 

Koos explains what the ideal situation looks like: “We’ve made a number of promises, not just internally to one another but also to our clients. We are professional, we communicate, we work safely, we have an eye for efficiency, and we’re involved not just in our own work but also in the work of our colleagues. We represent Wagenborg and we are proud of Wagenborg. And anybody can tackle us about those promises – anywhere, anytime.”

Proud of Wagenborg

Wagenborg aims to provide customised solutions to problems in maritime logistics. That demands focusing strongly on innovation, cost awareness, and sustainability. The key to success is cooperation. Theo explains: “Our success is determined by how we deal with one another every day of the week, and with our clients and other stakeholders. We believe in a way of working that leads to a high level of commitment. That kind of commitment means that I’m willing – as are my colleagues – to go that extra mile for one another and for our clients.”