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Assessment and Development of New Concepts for Management Structures of Ship Owners and Ship Operators

European Union
Complete with results
Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Transport mode
Waterborne icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues


Background & Policy context

The European maritime industry is facing various difficulties. The reduction of European flagged tonnage has reduced career opportunities in the industry, and consequently recruitment has been difficult and insufficient to meet industry needs. There has been strong price competition leading to an emphasis on cost reduction, which puts at risk current efforts to improve safety, quality and environmental performance. New technologies such as advanced information systems could radically change operations, creating a challenge for change management in a sector that is strongly influenced by tradition and by owner-operators. Therefore, there is a need to identify new ways of working that could address these problem areas.


The aim of MASSOP was to promote workable new organisational structures for the shipping industry, as an alternative to the traditional 'command and control' hierarchy commonly in use.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
European Commission; Directorate-General for Energy and Transport (DG TREN; formerly DG VII)
Type of funding
Public (EU)


Based on a survey of over 950 members of the Baltic and International Maritime Council (representing a significant proportion of world shipping companies), MASSOP developed recommendations in the following areas:


  • improved processes for running ships and managing business operations;
  • risk management procedures;
  • the use of information systems, particularly web-based applications and systems to help implement the International Safety Management Code;
  • improved communications and teamwork;
  • improved training systems and actions to increase staff recruitment.


MASSOP defined a system for developing a 'learning organisation' within a shipping company, to increase the ability to adapt to new technologies, management concepts and regulations. This includes actions for the short, medium and long term, together with a syllabus for in-house courses.


The project estimated that new structures for seaboard management could produce overall cost savings of up to 25%, partly through reduced manning levels and partly through the use of information technology.


The project developed a periodic newsletter, providing guidance for more than 1500 companies and individuals. This newsletter proved a success and is expected to continue into the future.


The project concluded that there is a real need for changes in the industry. It described the phenomenon of the 'collapse of the middle', in which the many small traditional shipping companies can be seen as being 'squeezed' by large companies. The analysis showed that more than 30% of the world's shipping companies operate an average of 3 ships, with an office staff of 10 people, often owned and run by family members and characterised by a very centralised management style and financial control. These are the so-called 'traditional' companies. While the liner operators are becoming bigger and centred on service differentiation, the larger bulk trade operators go for cutting costs towards cost leadership. Traditional shipping companies try to compete in this environment, but without a cost leadership or a differentiation strategy they fail and cannot compete. They are 'stuck in the middle'. Their lack of adaptability to market change leads to difficulties for organisational evolution. The result of all this is the decline of profitability, demanding a new approach to management.

Policy implications

The project highlighted the impact of the International Safety Management Code on maritime operations, aimed at creating a safety culture and allowing ships to trade world-wide under a single set of safety regulations. Many seafarers consider that the documentation for the Code has been 'dumped' on them, without any opportunity to participate in the preparation of procedures or to provide feedback on its implementation. The recommended solution is to open up channels of communication and promote seminars to look at experiences.


The sheer volume of regulatory matters was found to influence management structures. Improved means of providing advice on new regulations and their implementation are needed, particularly to support management in small companies.


As part of a strategy to increase recruitment of manpower, MASSOP noted the need for agreement on a common structure for certification of European ships' officers. In addition, certification and operating procedures should support more flexible multi-skilled manning.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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