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Human factor in shipping, a prerequisite for success

To attract talent and to build a united team, it is essential to have a fertile ground that offers the right opportunities

SHIPPING in recent years has followed other industries and is slowly evolving into a sector in which advanced technology enables high performance.

It has been comprehensively proven that getting the right technology tools is a great starting point for achieving high performance. However, the human factor remains — and will always be — a vital element in the success of shipping companies.

In Formula One motor racing, for example, all racing teams meet the same technical specifications, but it is the driver, the expertise, priorities and the teamwork that make material differences. The same concept applies to shipping.

To attract talent and to build a united team, it is essential to have a fertile ground that offers the right opportunities. Talented individuals look for an open and flexible environment in which they can pursue their aspirations and attain their goals.

For a newcomer to the shipping industry, the business of chartering can seem complicated and wrapped in mystique. Great chartering managers do not necessarily make great teachers, so the time needed for a new team member to gain a comprehensive view of the market, the ships, the terminology — not to mention the company and its culture — can be significant.

How do you best train people so they can add value as quickly as possible?

At Signal, the company recognised that 'educational' gap, and has tried to build a framework to help onboard new joiners quickly and effectively, as well as share knowledge across the company. An in-house, four-week, onboarding plan comprises the Tanker Chartering Academy and, subsequently, the Product Teams Rotation to provide a holistic overview of the company, combining commercial ship management with AI-based tech products.

The Signal Chartering Academy is focused on turning the participant into a trader with a global mindset. More specifically, the participants are enabled to fix tankers on the spot market, by taking into account all alternative scenarios, trading patterns and triangulation, position value concept and reposition strategies, in order not to focus on one specific route for years.

Retaining young talent requires continuous development and career progression. Individual and team objectives can only be achieved through providing and receiving constructive 360 feedback and engaging in fruitful dialogue to find the career path that fits them best.

Panos Dimitracopoulos, CEO of Signal Maritime Services, explains: “To achieve what we want, at Signal, we focus on developing our analytical capabilities constantly and stay up-to-speed with data science. We follow a learning plan which is realised through pre-booked calendar slots and supported by a generous annual budget per employee.”

Culture and collaboration are the key. Teams that value trust and transparency can achieve greater levels of teamwork, enabling them to set high standards together, think solutions through and pay attention to details that bring impact. A structured and robust onboarding process along with continuous learning leads to a homogeneous culture in the medium term which is a pillar for any agile organisation in the longer run. Shipping companies will benefit by enhancing their onboarding programmes and knowledge-sharing culture.

Shipping has always been an industry that values strong relationships and authenticity, and will continue to be such. Building trust requires effort and consistently delivering what you say you will. Progress relies on shipping companies arming young professionals with the knowledge and tools to get up to speed, to be able to make informed decisions within an accelerated time frame, and to focus on respecting the market structure and developing their relationships with counterparts.

“Above all, we are driven by responsibility and accountability, providing high quality service to our customers and partners. When someone collaborates with us, we want Signal to be the first call once they want to do business again,” says Mr Dimitracopoulos.

To learn more about Signal Maritime pools, details can be found on its website. If you are interested in starting a conversation with them, contact Signal Maritime Services team with your request here.

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