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0 Crew retention

Wolfgang Lukas
Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences
Bremerhaven, Germany


Crew retention is a crucial issue in the whole maritime sector, as job conditions on sea require long
periods on duty and rather long ones off duty. During those times the both the responsible managers
and the team colleagues are out of view, and even the formal employment might be discontinued for
that period. Typical retention concepts and instruments in- and outside the cruise industry are
examined in order to identify both typical approaches and practices as well as to reconstruct the
underlying expression of corporate values and the assumptions about employees’ values and

Keywords: Human Resources, labour market, employee retention


P. Gibson et al. (Eds.), Cruise Sector Challenges, DOI 10.1007/978-3-8349-6871-5_12,

© Gabler Verlag | Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH 2011
12.1 Why retention? Benefits of short-termed employments

In general low turnover rates respectively high retention rates of staff are regarded as
positive and desirable. From a managerial point of view it seems to be reasonable to check if
there is a real need and a business benefit before new activities and changes should be

One of the benefits not to bind employees long termed is obviously a higher degree of
flexibility regarding the human resources. This refers both to total capacity as well as to the
freedom of decision to choose a better candidate for the next contract. To follow such a way
of human resources management requires some basic conditions. One of them is a sufficient
supply of new workforce with the necessary capabilities in the labour market or low
qualifications costs including the costs for vocational adjustment until the employee shows
the required performance on the job.

A second condition could be a continuous rejuvenation of the staff, with would be quite
compatible to the idea, that travelling through the world on a cruise vessel might be a job for
some time but not lifelong.

A third condition would be low recruitment costs, both looking at direct costs like those of
recruiting agencies and indirect costs for handling the recruitment process in the Human
Resources department and the operational units onboard.

Linked with those conditions is the kind of work: As long as the job to be done is highly
standardised among the industry, a rotation between companies would be easy or even
beneficial for the employer to get knowledge and experiences from competitors. This works
as long as the differentiation between the products in the market is not very high. An
adjacent aspect is the standardisation of the jobs as such, when they are less characterised
by the individuality of the jobholder, the personal appearance and competences. A high level
of job standardisation would allow an easier way of planning and steering including the
substitution of employees without difficulty. These are typical features of an industrialised
development stage of a branch. This issue has been widely discussed as McDonaldisation of
the cruise industry (see Ritzer and Liska 1997, Weaver 2005). How a post-industrial design of
the cruise branch could look like, is just left as an open question.

12.2 Definitions and relevance

Retention is a widely discussed and promoted issue in the maritime sector, most of the
publications and statements refer to the merchant sector. The current market break has not
deferred the topic. Sean T. Connaughton, former Administrator of the US Maritime
Administration and today Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia
stated in April 2009 in his address to maritime educators at the Maritime Education Summit:
“Surprisingly, even though current economic conditions have slowed the demand for new
personnel and increased retention of existing staff, the seafarer job market remains strong.”
A that time Connaughton was Corporate Vice President for Government Affair in the
American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), which might indicate that such a statement is not just
motivated to uphold or generate consulting or technical services to increase retention rates.