To mark the IMO’s Day of the Seafarer and this year’s theme of ‘Careers at Sea’, Mark Cameron, COO of Ardmore Shipping, shares his thoughts on Ardmore’s approach to supporting its sea staff and the skills required by today’s seafarers.
“From day one, we have considered every one of our seafarers to be an ambassador for Ardmore. They have the greatest contact with our customers and are entrusted with the safe and successful transit of their cargo. There is no doubt that the performance of our sea staff is the most important factor in our commercial world. Their performance, day in, day out and around the clock, is ultimately what enables us to fulfill our commitment to our customers and to thrive commercially.
So we hope they are in no doubt about their importance to us. Likewise, we want them to respect and enjoy working for Ardmore Shipping, to keep returning to our ships and to support our continued growth. Certainly, we can’t grow unless we attract skilled and dedicated seafarers who want to work with us, so our reputation among the seafaring community is important. We don’t underestimate the value of a ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendation from a seafarer who has had a rewarding time working with us.”
Professionalism and Pride
Ardmore has a particularly strong ethos when it comes to bolstering pride in the profession of seafaring and providing its sea staff with the opportunity to make the most of their abilities:
“We believe passionately in empowering people to take responsibility for the decisions that they make when serving onboard an Ardmore vessel. We aim to motivate and to lead. In our experience, people respond positively to this approach.
A career at sea can be the best job in the world and we need to take great pride in what they do, just as we expect them to take the same pride in their work. The industry has been through a phase where responsibility came ashore, with sea staff viewed as operators, rather than professionals. We’re trying to redress that balance by putting accountability back where it belongs – onboard.
The role of our shore-side staff is to support our sea staff and to enable them to succeed in their work. That means providing the motivation to succeed and the right opportunities for progression. We want people to take on responsibility and to be a leader, whatever their role.
Of course, there are more practical considerations that we also have to get right; everything from providing a decent food budget for our ships so that our seafarers can enjoy high quality meals, to ensuring that crew members are relieved on time. This is still a challenge for our industry and it is our responsibility to ensure that scheduled crew rotations are delivered efficiently and successfully.”
Integrity and Partnership
The relationship with Ardmore’s technical managers and with its seafarers is also vital, according to Mark:
“We are one team. We work hand-in-hand with our technical managers and our crew in a three-way partnership. We do not believe in abdicating responsibility to our technical managers. They are our valued partners and we work very closely with them and directly with our sea staff.”
Investing in the Future
When it comes to investing in the next generation, Mark believes that cadet training is the responsibility of every ship owner:
“We have always viewed the cadet pipeline as an industry responsibility. It’s great if you’re big enough to take on 30 cadets, but not every owner can do that and we certainly didn’t have that sort of capacity when we founded Ardmore. However, we took the view that if we can help to find training berths for one or two cadets, that’s still a great starting point. Now that we’ve grown as a business, we’re able to take on our own cadets as well. So it’s important for everyone to play their part, rather than just thinking about their own requirements. Even if you have just one or two ships, you can still support an industry-wide effort to invest in the next generation.”
The ‘Right’ Kind of Seafarer
For Mark, the most important attribute for any seafarer – the right attitude:
“Whether you’re a cadet, a chief engineer or captain, the most important asset is the right attitude. We can teach many things, we can support and motivate people, but they need the right attitude to succeed. If they have an enquiring mind, an appetite to learn and a desire to be the best, they’ll be off to a flying start.”
You can read more about Ardmore’s performance philosophy for its sea staff here.
Crew members onboard Ardmore Defender, from left to right: Third Officer – Franklin Agana, Second Officer – Aldrin Roy Flores, and A/B – Emerson Magdato