14 May 2020

On Thursday the 14th May, the maritime community gathered together online to hear Mark Charman, CEO & Founder of Faststream Recruitment deliver his Maritime Employment COVID-19 Update. 

You can enjoy the recording here:

It is definitely not “business-as-usual” in the maritime sector, and I think it’s fair to say that none of us has been through this one before! As an employer of over 100 people myself, this is testing my business leadership skills to the limit. I know from the conversations that I am having with the CEO’s of many maritime companies, that we are all going through this together. How long will it last? How bad will it be? How do we operate in this new environment? Should I fire or should I hire? These are just some of the questions business leaders are trying to answer.

The black and white has long gone, and we are now operating in a sea of grey. I thought it would be useful to share a snapshot of how we see maritime companies approaching people and recruitment during the COVID-19 crisis.

Treading water

Some maritime companies are simply not doing anything. They are waiting to see how the COVID-19 crisis plays out and what impact it will have on their business. UK maritime companies can take advantage of Government support to pay 80% of the wages for employees they have furloughed, and this lasts until the end of October*. Then they will figure out what to do about people and their 2020 hiring plans. Rather than make hasty hiring or firing decisions in a landscape they’ve never been in before, they want to see what is going to happen.


Mobility or rather lack of is one of the biggest challenges maritime companies face right now and its driving recruitment activity. With many borders still closed, complexities around crew changes, projects needing boots on the ground and critical people in lock-down, there is some clever-thinking taking place. To keep business moving companies are increasingly looking for “in-country” flexible employment solutions. Only this week we have been asked to recruit the crew of a new building that needs to be delivered from Singapore to West Africa. Due to closed borders, this means that the crew need to be in Singapore and ready to go now.

Rise of the Interim-Executive

We are all in unchartered waters here, and maritime companies are no different. A pandemic probably didn’t come up in your last SWOT analysis. As companies figure out how to make it through and out the other side, Interim-Executives with crisis-management experience, corporate restructuring expertise or strategy skill-sets will be very much in-demand.

Keeping calm and carrying on

I am not sure many companies would describe themselves as unaffected in the current crisis, but still, some companies are pressing on with their recruitment plans regardless. As we saw in 2008 during the GFC, market turmoil will shake out hard to recruit people that under normal circumstances, companies would find very difficult to recruit. Companies with a positive outlook and a longer-term view of the world are snapping-up these unicorn candidates. Recruitment for critical positions has not been placed on hold, and many clients are simply elongating the search process while they manage their affairs.

Tech is winning out

Most of us are by now already well-adjusted to home working, (my dog, Inga asleep on the study floor is particularly well-adjusted) and the HR Departments of our maritime clients are no different. Companies are quickly adapting their recruitment processes and embracing technology to recruit and onboard remotely in the crisis. Interviews via Teams and Zoom are happening every day, online assessments are being completed, and laptops are posted to successful candidates as part of their virtual onboarding. This could be the way for the foreseeable future.

Light at the end of the tunnel and I don’t think it’s a train coming

Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a definite sense of, if I dare call it this, normalisation. Business leaders in the maritime sector are a hardy-bunch and mostly “just want to get on with it”. Many have the view that we face some hard yards ahead, but the world will continue to spin, and ships will continue to sail. They have quickly adapted their operations to a new way of working. Many of the CEO’s I talk to seem to be converted to home-working, citing increased productivity, fewer meetings and no travel as the biggest gains. Some glimmers of optimism appear to be returning, and companies are starting to look at how they might capitalise on the bounce-back when it comes.

*The UK Government scheme at the time of writing

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