Human resource management in the shipping industry

Parsa, Seyed Jafar Sadjadi (2008) Human resource management in the shipping industry. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


There are indications of consensus among commentators and other stakeholders that shipping industry managements need to pay greater attention to `the human element'. This thesis examines the ways merchant marine officers (seafarers), working for British and European companies, are managed, through the theoretical specification and empirical evaluation of issues and practices associated with the seafaring employment relationship, including prospects for `progressive HRM'. Issues include but not are limited to the influence of `open registries' shortage of qualified officers, stress among seafarers, and problems arising from demography.

A mixed methods design was selected to evaluate a set of theoretically derived research propositions. Quantitative data was collected, using a questionnaire, from a sample of 357 seafarers working on board merchant vessels. Qualitative data was collected, using semi-structured interviews, from 10 individuals representing shipping company managements. A variety of statistical and qualitatively inclined operations were undertaken to analyse the data.

The results indicate little evidence to conclude that systematic, progressive people management is applied by shipping companies to which the study findings may be generalised, in relation to their seafarers. In a high-tech, stressful and complex working environment of the shipping industry with soaring financial and environmental risks, `externalisation' of employment relationships appears to be given priority over more developmental investment in seafaring human capital even among employers in traditional maritime countries where such ideas have currency with policy makers.

The thesis contributes to knowledge by identifying a series of predictions to facilitate the systematic evaluation of how seafaring employment is being managed, accounting for normative claims in both shipping and HRM, and through assembly and analysis of an empirical database under conditions where access has to overcome a combination of managerial sensitivity to external inquiry and remoteness of the population of interest.

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