Addressing shipboard cultural diversity: A paradigm shift required to effectively improve shipboard performance
The past few decades have witnessed a tremendous technological and social transformation on board ships and with it some very significant operational challenges. Much of the social challenges have been the result of a new maritime workforce that has now become largely much more culturally diverse than ever. While most of the challenges posed by technological changes have been adequately addressed through appropriately structured industry training programs, those of the social changes have not. The Maritime industry adopted the STCW convention early in 1978 purposely to standardize and address industry training needs globally, but while the STCW convention seem to have adequately addressed technological training it appears it still falls short in addressing challenges posed by social changes. With over 85% of the world fleet now mixed manned, a major shipboard social challenge is cultural diversity.
Addressing shipboard cultural diversity issues can therefore no longer be thought of as a humanistic or moral issue, or a social responsibility either, but rather an operational imperative required to enable crew members operating in such an environment fit in well with each other, a sort of an interactive design process for ships' crew that can aptly be described as “human ergonomics”. This paperexamines the STCW convention to determine its adequacy in addressing the training needs for shipboard social challenges and if not to propose measures required to address this. The author concludes by recommending cultural training to be incorporated into the STCW convention and for developing nations to take the lead role in this.
Keywords: shipboardcultural diversity, shipboard technological changes, shipboard social changes, shipboard training, cross-cultural awareness, cultural values.