To operate a ship, Shipowners may set up their own ship management company or department to deal with all the issues if they have enough resources to do so. Or, they may instead hire a ship management company. Within the ship management, there is a crew department which definitely handles everything about crew, as the name said.
The crew department is responsible for the following duties:
- Selecting a person with appropriate qualifications that match a position, ship size, and a navigation area. And, make sure that the person has all documents and certifications as required by the Marine Department of a country.
- Ensuring that crew are working in accordance with safety instructions and shipowner’s policies.
- Negotiating and settling salary, other special payments and welfare benefits for a crew.
- Training and developing crew to have adequate knowledge to work effectively.
- Assessing crew performance.
But, there is a time when the crew department can’t find enough crew as it wants, this is when a crew manning agency is to be calling for service.
What is a Crew Manning Agency?
Thai Maritime Labour Act B.E. 2558 (2015) section 20 to 42 has clearly identified the qualifications and duties of a person who recruits for a person to work as a seafarer. This person is generally known as a Crew Manning Agency. Seafarers and shipowners can refer to the Act before calling for service. The person or agency must be granted a recruitment license from the Department of Employment. You can google a list of qualified agencies with their contact information from the Central Employment Registration and Workers Protection Division.
The recruitment license, which every Crew Manning Agency must have, is called Seafarer Recruitment and Placement Service Certification (SRPS certificate) with 2 years before expiration.
Each crew manning agency must place a security of 5 million baht to assure damage which may occur when sending a person to work on-board and then accidentally need to be sent back home. In case the agency refuses to take responsibility, related government entities can proceed with the repatriation. Any expense incurred will be deducted from the security. If the agency wants to save its status of the recruitment license from cancellation, the security must be deposited to give the total amount of 5 million.
Trust is what seafarers and shipowners are looking for. They need assurance. Moreover, the agency must be quick in response to the situation and be transparent.
Points to Consider Before Choosing Crew Manning Agency
Shipowners having a ship sailing across borders must comply with Maritime Labour Convention 2006 (MLC 2006). If you hire a seafarer through a crew manning agency, the agency must be certified by a government entity as per MLC 2006. If not, when the ship undergoes MLC certificate audit, it may face major deficiency which, in the worst case, may result in cancellation of the certificate.
Though a crew manning agency has SRPS certificate, shipowners having a ship registered and flagged the country ratified MLC 2006 must use the service of an agency which complies to the minimum requirements of MLC 2006. Flag states and shipowners should thoroughly verify seafarers selected and sent from a crew manning agency located in a country not ratified MLC 2006 whether the agency satisfies the standards of MCL 2006.
When I am choosing a crew manning agency, these are the points on my checklist.
- The expiration of the recruitment license issued by the government entity of that country
- The price is reasonable.
- Sent seafarers are qualified and sent within the date of embarkation.
- Seafarers have required knowledge and work effectively as expected by the shipowners.
- The good relationship between the shipowners and the crew manning agency is maintained.
The Department of Employment will keep checking whether a crew manning agency does the business right. This is to ensure that seafarers’ rights are protected. Further, a crew manning agency cannot blacklist any person.
Features of a Good and Reliable Crew Manning Agency
I’ve collected these followings from my long years of observation.
- Frequently update the seafarer record.
- Always revise the information of Ship names and shipowners.
- Inform the rights and duties of a seafarer under a contract and provide adequate time to a seafarer for recheck and consideration.
- Give a copy of a work contract to a seafarer.
- Check whether the details in a work contract conform to the laws of a country.
- Verify whether seafarer’s qualifications match the position the seafarer is applying to.
- Monitor the financial status of the shipowner or the company which a seafarer is going to work for, so in case of emergency, a seafarer won’t be left at port.
- Have a good complaint system.
- Have insurance in case of a seafarer failing to work under contract condition, or a shipowner or a company violating a work contract.
- Qualify a seafarer having adequate knowledge and certifying to do a job.
- Respect the rights and privacy of a seafarer.
- Response immediately to a request of information and recommendations from the family of a seafarer, and take any expense at its cost.
- Update contact information in case of emergency.
- Inform the policies of a shipowner or a company, e.g., no alcohol allowed on board, etc.
Why Hiring a Crew Manning Agency?
This is a number one question.
Hiring a seafarer is a big deal for a company. More people come with a number of problems, for example, salary, signing on and off before a contract ends, illness, etc. Seeing these, shipowners may want to focus their effort on running business instead of taking care of those issues. Hiring a crew manning agency to administer all the issues relating to seafarers would be much easier. However, choosing a good and reliable crew manning agency must be done carefully as a poor decision will create another problem.
Finally, a crew manning agency should build and continu a good relationship with shipowners as this connection will create chances to attract competent seafarers into its pool, and other shipowners which means more potential clients.