How Conflicts Arise Among Seafarers on Ships?

Ships are like any other professional working set-ups, wherein differences of opinions arise among working seafarers on numerous occasions. While at times differences of opinion may not be that threatening to the nature of routine operations, certain conflicts can and be serious threat to hamper the course of necessary proceedings of the ship.

Moreover, as ship is a confined working area with limited number of people, it becomes extremely important to primarily extrapolate the causes that stand to create major differences of opinion between professionals working on ships and enable ways to settle the discrepancies. This would help in fostering a better working environment, especially considering the longevity of contracts of the maritime professionals.

Credits: Seafarers’ Rights International/YouTube

Differences of opinion or conflicts between seafarers on ships may arise because of various reasons. The various reasons for causation of differences of opinion can be elaborated as follows:

Constraints of Work Environment

Undertaking a maritime commissioning requires individuals to spend longer months away from home and other acclimatized surroundings. At times, this could cause severe debilitating scenarios when professionals feel the strain of being restricted to the work environment, getting to them. Such type of working environment leads to frustration and stress, resulting in to conflicts between seafarers.

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Work Pressure

Working aboard a ship requires constant activity on the part of seafarers. At times, necessity might demand that the seafarers put in extra hours in their allotted free time. Long working hours, unfriendly working environment, and limited resources are a part of working on ships. At such situations, any minor verbal discord can result into a major conflicting confrontation needing to be settled at the earliest.

Work pressure induced conflicts can also stem in case multiple operations are required to be carried out at the same time and there is a distinct lack of enough working personnel to carry out all the operations efficiently. While prioritizing the tasks in their order of urgency, conflicts could arise between the seafarers.

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Hierarchical Disputes

Differences of opinion and thoughts also arise in vessels when there are conflicts between higher and lower hierarchical work personnel aboard a vessel. Such disputes could either be a matter of simple disagreement of thoughts between two people or they could be more severe, threatening the work relationship irrevocably.

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Lapse of communication is a major problem that could affect working relationship between the seafarers, especially in the times of crises. Miscommunication could also in-turn be an inducer for more causation of conflict like unnecessary envying and rivalry between seafarers aboard the vessel. This could lead to discord and severe problems affecting the positive viability of the whole maritime operation on ships.

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Working on ships

Reparation of Differences of Opinion

Since verbal communication channels get strained on account of the conflicting and discord aboard the vessel, the primary duty of the managerial personnel such as chief engineer or captain thus involves trying to use verbal communication to reason out the conflicts and amicably settle them. It’s in such scenarios that the ship’s captain and alongside him, all other senior-level mariners become most important tools to adjudicate the matter responsibly without any bias or partisanship.

Since the atmosphere on ships can be constraining at times, it becomes the obligation of these senior officials to ensure that all communication channels between each and every seafarer are without lapses and even if, minor differences of opinion crop up, they are sorted out before they further escalate.

In case of disputes threatening to arise on account of operational prioritising, various management principles like MBO (Management by Objective) can be employed to diffuse the situation with utmost success.

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Adopting a No Blame Policy on Ships

Are there any other reasons that lead to conflicts between seafarers on ships? We would like to hear from you.

You may also like to read – Stress At Sea – 5 Courses To Help Beat Stress & Anxiety On Ships

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About Author

An ardent sailor and a techie, Anish Wankhede has voyaged on a number of ships as a marine engineer officer. He loves multitasking, networking, and troubleshooting. He is the one behind the unique creativity and aesthetics at Marine Insight.



  2. some master mariner blame the problems to the engineers, but we been doing our job double, triple checking and also working our ass out during our rest hours. I remember when our chief told the captain that the fresh water tank was needed to be topped up when we were ashore…..the captain said yes I be contacting the DPA to get in the water authority … we waited the whole day but nothing came , the chief contacted the captain again”….oh yes I will contact them right away…”.the water authority came around midnight at 1200hr , so the captain contacted the chief to have everything ready, the chief replied….”this our rest hour sir we have to do this tomorrow…”bang the captain start blasting word at our chief “.. this an order chief..” you guys are not doing your job properly….luckily our chief was humility and self control guy. But the question is I don’t know why they keep blaming thing at us even if it they fault ?

  3. In response to the above water tank issue, rest hour or not, water was delivered to be used by everyone. It’s a third party that delivers the FW so you can’t ask them to come back later (more cost for owners and waste of time waiting for them again). Chief should have understood this and followed orders. It’s not like the captain was asking him to do actual routine work.

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