Competence: Build on your skills

01 Feb 2016 The Navigator

As technology advances, competencies that are required today will not be the same as those needed tomorrow. Gilbert Maturan describes how global maritime company Teekay supports its people in their quest to build on competency at sea

For young officers starting out, the process of completing years of maritime education, carrying out the required sea experience, attending shore-based training courses and acquiring the Certificate of Competency issued by their flag state can be considered quite a feat in itself. Yet, in meeting STCW standards, they have only achieved the minimum entry requirements, prior to deployment onboard a vessel. Once employed, they must complete further company-specific training and meet higher standards that go beyond the “minimum competencies”.

This raises a vital question for officers. Are you ready to rise to the challenge of becoming an excellent navigator? Here are some practical tips to help you build on your competence – and confidence:

  1. Know your competence
    Know your competence Carry out an accurate and honest appraisal of your competence against the expectations of your company. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, along with any gaps in your knowledge or skills that need addressing.
  2. Create your learning and development plan
    Write down your personal aspirations and learning goals for the future, again based on what your company expects of you. If the company has a competence matrix, use this as a guide. Prioritise areas that are critical to your tasks/duties for your specific tour of duty. Discuss them with a senior officer or supervisor to see how you might be able to work towards your learning goals.
  3. Be proactive and engaged
    Be proactive and engaged Be enthusiastic and show a positive attitude to all your tasks, seeing them as opportunities for hands-on learning onboard ship. You can supplement this by reading manuals and studying operating procedures etc. Engage with all drills and training exercises to hone your proficiency.
  4. Look for role models, coach and mentors
    Observe your colleagues and take inspiration from positive role models. Be open to learn from people with more experience than you and take the initiative to approach  mentors/assessors and ask them to evaluate your performance and give you feedback. It will help build your confidence if a third party confirms that you can do your job properly, and allow you to identify any gaps that need to be addressed.
  5. Make the most of your performance reviews
    Make sure you keep track of your own progress in achieving your learning and development goals. You need to show a consistently positive attitude, and maintain a high level of knowledge and skills onboard to achieve a positive report. 
  6. Attend shore-based trainings courses
    Any gaps in your competencies not addressed while onboard should be prioritised after you have completed the tour of duty and disembarked from your vessel. Coming ashore gives you the chance to attend shore-based training courses, e-learnings, workshops and conferences.
  7. Remember that it’s a cyclical process
    When returning to your vessel, repeat the process described above until you feel that you have achieved your development goals and are confident enough to carry out your duties to the best of your abilities and be promoted to the next rank, once you are ready.

To be an excellent navigator, you must set your mind towards a positive attitude towards building on competency and realise that it is a continuous process of learning and developing skills. If this can be anchored on a well-structured professional career development plan – whether it is one developed by a company, like the one in the case study, set out by a professional body, or even developed by yourself – you can be certain that you are on the right path to success.


Case study:
How Teekay offers SCOPE for developing

Teekay’s ‘Seafarer Competence for Operational Excellence’ (‘SCOPE’) initiative is well established and recognised by the industry as a top competence management system. Designed to improve all seafarers’ performances, it is based on best practices developed by Teekay. SCOPE offers Teekay employees a clearly defined career management path, from recruitment to training, including transitions to positions ashore. It sets out one single standard to assess each seafarer according to what is expected of someone of their rank.

Teekay also carefully defines ‘competence’, referring not only to a person’s overall ability, but also their motivation to fulfil their defined role safely and successfully when judged against the company’s exacting standards. This definition focuses on overall knowledge and understanding, as well as aptitude, experience and, finally, attitude and motivation.

Finally, Teekay has identified a set of required competencies for all ranks of seafarer, divided into two main groups. Firstly, there are the skills and knowledge, based on the company’s own best practices, that employees must demonstrate alongside their basic STCW competencies. These enable seafarers to carry out their role onboard ship safely and successfully. Secondly, those in management positions must also possess leadership behaviour competencies that allow them to lead and work with others.

Each Teekay competency is valid for five years, starting from the date the competency was successfully achieved. After five years, seafarers are then formally re-assessed and revalidated to ensure that they remain up-to-date and confident in their knowledge and skills. All Teekay seafarers have their own Continuing Professional Development (CPD) portfolio, or structured professional career development plan. This documents the results of their competence assessments and analyses how well they perform during their day job. It allows for continuous improvement, provides opportunities for career development and is a highly effective mechanism for giving and receiving feedback.

The aims of Teekay’s CPD strategy are as follows:

  • To provide a framework for discussion, support and encouragement by the seafarer’s line manager
  • To set goals that will lead to improved competence and performance of the individual, greater teamwork and overall improved organisational performance
  • To provide a tool to manage performance objectively and achieve strategic company objectives, while fulfilling Teekay’s philosophy of promoting from within the fleet where possible.