6.1. Reverse Mentoring

The role of Leadership in imbibing safety culture onboard can`t be stressed any more.

However, Clay is easier to mould when its soft, and old habits break hard.

It is upon the juniors, who are going to be the future leaders of the maritime industry to show our mettle, resilience, character and be the face of a new change.

In the words of Swami Vivekananda,” leaders are world movers”

Giving more opportunities to Cadets and Junior officers may bring fresh ideas and revive the spirit in a positive way.

If the ideas for safety consciousness comes from within, rather than being instilled from an external source, they stay imbibed for longer.

Reverse Mentoring is beneficial to both the mentor and the mentee.

Some benefits –

It empowers juniors and makes them feel trusted.

The young mentors can gain important leadership skills. Reverse mentoring gives more-experienced employees the opportunity to hone and refine their established leadership practices, based on feedback, discussion and open dialogue with their less-experienced colleagues

It gives a fresh perspective, which comes with added zeal and enthusiasm, leading to more active participation from all crew

A practical problem onboard is that as one rises in rank, the inevitable question is –

Who do I look up to ?

Cadets and Junior officers learn from more experienced SMT members and hone their skills.

A master on the other hand, does not have this advantage.

Incorrect practices may remain uncorrected.

The Pygmalion effect, is a psychological phenomenon wherein high expectations lead to improved performance in a given area

Management expert J. Sterling Livingston describes it as the effect of enabling subordinates to excel in response to the leader’s expectation of them.

Looking differently, is it possible to apply the Pygmalion Effect to oneself?

With reverse mentoring, junior officers would psychologically understand what are the responsibilities of a Master or a Chief Engineer, and what they expect from their peers, this would influence their behaviour, which in-turn will influence the results catapulting their rise towards excellence.


One of the amazing things that has emerged with the rise of social media is the ability for people to express themselves creatively. Whether their passion is singing, art, crafts, science, they can find other people who are passionate about the same things and learn from them, and share their passion with the world.

We are all familiar to the power and potential of social media, from marketing to overturning election results in huge democracies, to highlighting the plight of migrants, in recent years we have seen it all.

In today`s age of instagrams and twitters, where fashion and showbiz take the forefront, we must remember the fact that, it is the core industries which gave the world the freedom, comfort and the luxury it enjoys.

We must take pride in what we do and promote it rigorously. Once we imbibe this spirit, then there is no need for anyone to preach us safety. It will come naturally to us.

Everyone wants to follow “trends”, let’s make SAFETY trending !

Research points out that people get a much broader affirmation by posting on social media, and tend to feel less stressed after they do so.

Official Instagram handles where crew can post and tag their safety initiatives, good practices or even everyday life at sea would definitely hit the sweet spot with the youngsters.


Hypothetically, if a process is highly efficient, but unsafe, the downtime it may cause will by far outweigh a safe but moderately efficient process.

So, we can`t talk about efficiency in isolation.

For those of us, who disregard safety, in the name of “ease of doing work”, this concept is important to understand.

Safety is everyone`s responsibility


Every individual is completely responsible for his actions. And all actions bear fruit.

For an average adult, sleeping consist of 8 hrs a day, 2 hrs of necessary activity to sustain life. With 14 hrs of active day remaining, an average of 10 hr workday onboard, it works out to be spending more than 70% of time at work

So, weather one likes it or not, one has to spend a substantial amount of time at work. With so much of time and energy going in work, isn’t it important we thoroughly enjoy the work we do?

Given a choice to be “Joyful” or “Miserable”, we`ll always choose Joy.

Think of it in this way –

The work we do, is service to humanity.

The coronavirus pandemic has made the world sit up and take notice of this silent workforce who dedicatedly serve to keep the world going.

Various governments and organisations have come forward and given the long-overdue recognition to seafarers.

With this thought in mind, we must work in such a way, that serves to uplift ourselves, our colleagues, the organisation and the industry as a whole. No work is small, each work is important and even more so while working in a dangerous environment. Every action has repercussions

A weak link in the chain compromises the integrity of the whole chain and puts everyone in danger. Do you want to be that weak link or the anchor that holds the weight of the entire ship?


The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching,” American basketball coach John Wooden said

The age-old traditional sayings hold good in the modern era

Core values cannot be compromised, if we are to build a solid foundation


Pragmatic is no longer pragmatic if it does not match the demands created by what is happening around us now .

The mandate to work safely is not up for discussion – We need to constantly remind ourselves of Safety Values lest we become complacent.


A sound mind resides in a sound body

BW Wellness Program is a great initiative.

A dedicated instagram handle may boost participation


There is a wide misunderstanding of near-miss reporting as an obligatory procedure, rarther than a conscious reporting culture.

We need to change this thinking.

A presentation to the crew on how Near Misses have prevented accidents and helped the Maritime Industry in achieving safety goals, the idea behind the concept, how the practice was adopted from Aviation Industry after it showed promising results will help them comprehend the true purpose of the exercise and we should see an upward trend in quality and number of reportings.


Knowing the amount of time, money and energy a seafarer spends on Trainings, during vacations and also onboard, it is unrealistic to expect the same level of commitment and consistency throughout.

We need to make trainings fun and rewarding.

For most people onboard, a drill or a training at 1630 is a turn-off. It is not hard to understand why.

After a hard day`s work, the day just got extended. Half-heartedly, the crew goes through the monotony.

Now imagine this –

Lets call it a day a few hours early, people have a chance to freshen up and have a cup of coffee, the drill goes as planned and at the end of it, everyone has some meaningful discussions with some soft drinks thrown in.

It takes as little as that.



About 71 percent of earth is water 90% of the world’s food, fuel, raw material and manufactured goods are delivered by sea.

Seafaring is a noble profession and Seafarers run the global economy.

Take great pride in what you do

#Navigators – the magic and charm of stars and the glory of navigating the high seas

#Engineers – the music and beauty of machinery and the marvels of engineering

You need to ask yourself- Why you do what you do?

Who you are, as a person, a major part of that is shaped by the work we do


Various studies indicate that injuries are 85 to 90 percent more likely to occur in a perceived safe job, compared to those regarded as most dangerous.

Closer to home, at BW, studies indicate the same

When people make repeated choices that involve at-risk behaviour, but experience first-hand benefits aligned with anticipated outcomes, they tend to underestimate the actual risks

Finally, if there is a conflict between intuition and our rational system, intuition usually wins and influences decision-making.

This explains in part why words and data may have little influence on someone`s behaviour.

Labelling a behaviour as unsafe when it has been performed hundreds of times before without negative consequence is more than a challenge.

If a behaviour was associated with a forecast benefit that was realized, you are now at odds with actual experience.

This is a hurdle which logic and reason alone will have some success of overcoming.

Safety cannot be perceived relatively, or in part, but in absolute.


I doubt there is anyone who has not seen this model.

The widely agreed interpretation of this model is that a major or catastrophic failure is the result of many smaller, prior failure and that the layers of protection, such as checklists, manuals, procedures, supervision, reporting, auditing, inspections are porous and imperfect.

Let us Re-model the Swiss Cheese Model

When I see the Swiss Cheese Model, I feel that it is our innate responsibility to find and fix those holes


Yes, you read that right.

Imagine you have some friends over at your home for an evening one fine weekend.

Wouldn`t you go an extra mile to make them feel welcome?

Wouldn’t you fluff a cushion here, throw rug there and make your house presentable?

Wouldn’t you want your friends to complement you the way you have maintained your home?

Isn`t it true that a man`s home speaks of the man himself.

The ship is our home. I rest my case.


A new era for human factors calls for a different kind of safety thinking.

A thinking that sees people as the source of diversity, insight, creativity and wisdom about safety,not as sources of risk that undermine an otherwise safe system

We need to trade our vocabularies of control, constraint, and human deficit for new vocabularies of empowerment, diversity and human opportunity


Human behaviour is unpredictable and unreliable


  • Maritime Accident cases with pictures, wherever possible, can be published and shared with the fleet. According to a study conducted by US National Institute of Health, Smokers whose packs had pictorial warnings were more likely than those whose packs had text-only warnings to attempt to quit smoking during the 4-week trial (40% more likely) .
  • How many days since the last accident? – A free board to be displayed on all ships (my ship doesn’t have one)
  • Safety Awards
  • BW Wellness Program improvements – can we make it more user friendly ? Ambassadorship to be allotted based on interest and can be rotated monthly.
  • Recognition
  • Recognition can be hugely emancipatory and empowering and a critical morale booster, can . bring out the best in people, so that they strive to be the best on water
  • Motivation If people no longer feel as able or empowered to think for themselves, this can stifle innovation, choke off initiative and erode problem ownership.
  • Use of Social Media to create a brand in the virtual space that crew takes pride to be a part of.
  • Putting up suggestion boxes in common areas where crew can write and drop their suggestions anonymously


With growth in total fleet size, complexity in nature of operations, new equipment, systems and processes

resource scarcity and commercial pressures, it can be a tendency of systems to push operations towards the edges of safety envelopes.

In its current form, human factors and safety thinking is not well equipped to handle targets for safety statistics.

The subtle use of metaphors, images and ideas, seems more and more at odds with the tools we are accustomed to.

Managing safety by numbers (incidents, LTFI, near misses, accidents, etc), as if safety is just another index of a Harvard Business Model

can create a false impression of rationality and managerial control.

It may ignore the other variables that could tell more useful stories of nature and direction of system drift.

The best results may be achieved by integrating the contemporary practices with modern ones.

As maritime leaders, we are in a position to adopt this model and make it a success.

After all, we are Best on Water.

The article has been written in earnest with limited time and resources, and I hope it can strike a chord with all our colleagues.


1. TRANSNAV , International Journal on Marine Navigation and Safety of Sea Transportation

2. IMO Press Releases

3. World Health Organisation definitions.

4. TRANSCOM 2019 13th International Scientific Conference on Sustainable, Modern and Safe Transport

5. The Wall Street Journal (Articles Section)


7. IAEA – International Atomic Energy Agency

8. SHRM – The Society for Human Resource Management

9. BW QMS document “Human Factors” – TANK/QLTY

10. US National Institute of Health Library

Jitesh Godara

3/E, BW Maritime

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