Deep Dive into Shipping Companies’ Culture

Shipping Industry: Challenges Everywhere

Shipping Industry is undergoing fundamental changes, both in the competitive landscape and in everyday business. Mega challenges shaping the market and macro and micro changes in the direct operating environment squeeze maneuvering and greatly affect how a Shipping Company navigates through volatility and uncertainty.

Whatever the challenges, a Shipping Company’s Strategy and its people Culture are among the primary levers in the never-ending quest for organizational viability and effectiveness. Only companies with aligned Strategy goals and People’s Culture -its most important asset being the Human Element- can effectively navigate this tumultuous scenery.

Aligning Culture with a Company’s Strategy & Goals

No assessment on Culture, no matter how deep or extensive, should underestimate the fact that Corporate Culture is built and nurtured around a Company’s business objectives. Any Shipping Company’s primary objectives are to manage the “assets” (ships) and develop a planned Strategy of Cost vs. Compliance vs. Revenue Production.

Top leaders should be able to influence and set new cultural alignment in motion, imprint new values and instill assumptions in order to achieve their goals.

The Human Element (HE) Interaction with Maritime Organizational Characteristics (MarOC)

IMO’s definition (Resolution A.947 (23)) broadly explains that the Human Element (HE) is a complex multi-dimensional component that interacts bi-directionally with Maritime Organizational Characteristics (MarOC) through the Safety Management System (SMS), Leadership, Communication, Governance, Safety Culture, Security, Marine Environmental Protection Regulations and Organizational Structures, Systems & Procedures. It involves the entire spectrum of core values, attitudes, perceptions, practices and behaviors within a company (involving ships’ crews, shore-based personnel and management), regulatory bodies, Recognized Organizations, and other relevant parties, all of whom need to co-operate in order to address Shipping Company’s issues effectively.

A Deep Dive into the Culture of Shipping Companies
A ”Deep Dive” Culture Project is More than a Mere Diagnostic Snapshot.

The Company Leaders must understand the outcomes that the Culture produces and the manner that these align with current and anticipated market and business conditions.

What Elements does it Have?

The framework should be holistic and detailed in order to effectively assess and improve the Company’s Culture. In Shipping industry, most approaches focus on isolated improvement interventions such as Safety & Resilience Training and Behavioral Competencies. However, it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem -the mindsets of people behind trainings, rules and regulations- but only the symptom.


Only a holistic approach that evaluates in detail every aspect of the Shipping Company can lead to the formulation of a coherent and complete Strategic Improvement Plan. This is the only way to effectively align Strategy and Culture, select the right people, assign the proper roles, implement the proper procedures and highlight the correct priorities in order to build a High Reliable Organization (HRO) that is truly resilient, adaptable, highly efficient and immune to complacency and degrading.

The Deep Dive into Corporate Culture: Its Implementation

HE and MarOC encompass a wide array of sub-characteristics that are interrelated and ultimately form the Profile of a Shipping Company. These sub-characteristics need to be identified, evaluated and studied in depth, before forming a complete Shipping Organization’s Profile, identifying gaps, lurking malpractices and misconceptions and finally designing corrective actions for improvement.

Methodology Outline is Both Holistic & Systematic

The methodology of the Deep Dive Assessment Protocol utilizes input from the combination of a set of tools, methods and approaches that are tailored to the needs of each Shipping Company. These include audits, evaluating KPIs, performing direct observations, participating in Company meetings, administering specialized electronic questionnaires and conducting confidential interviews ashore, onboard and in manning agencies.

The sample personnel that participates in the Deep Dive Project is selected through a random sampling technique from the five (5) groups below, which comprise employees from every level of the organization’s structure.

Analysis & Results Phase

Specialized analysis of the collected datasets is carried out by using Big Data analysis protocols, artificial intelligence and optimization and classification techniques. This analysis leads to the formulation of the Shipping Company’s current Cultural and Organizational Profile.

The Shipping Company’s strong and weak points are identified and, as a result, the Strategic Improvement Plan is formulated.

Strategic Improvement Plan

In the Strategic Improvement Plan all pieces of the analysis are put together in a coherent form and a viable, complete strategy with increased granularity is articulated. Based on the Strategic priorities and the objectives set in the outset, a Strategy map is defined with prioritization of actions, their KPIs and measures in tangible targets format and the relevant Shipping Company initiatives which should be taken with an anticipated quick win planning on top.

Shipping Company needs to manage the (probably significant) change process efficiently because it will most likely transform itself over the next years to come. Underpinning this programme of change should be a coherent communications and stakeholder engagement strategy combined with robust governance which will ensure accountability Company-wide. Prioritization of actions will be based on the Causality Links produced during the Deep Dive analysis phase.

Follow-Up Phase

A follow up assessment occurs in predetermined intervals and comparisons between the initial Deep Dive Assessment Protocols and previous follow up assessments’ performance are carried out. The effectiveness of the corrective actions is evaluated and, if necessary, they are realigned in order to ensure the Company’s steady progress towards improvement and Strategy-Culture alignment.

Deep Dive Project: Success is at the End

The final objective of the Deep Dive Project is to gradually implement all the above diagnostic, monitoring and management tools to identify the issues and obstacles inhibiting the Shipping Company’s operational efficiency and to guide the required change, in order to align Strategy, Leadership and Culture to the Company’s Goals.

A dream becomes a goal when acting toward its achievement.