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Better self-confidence creates a good work environment on M/S Eckerö. Giving the crew knowledge and self-confidence in work environment management is perhaps the most important factor in creating improvements onboard. Christer Edström, one of this year’s three SAN award winners, is the man behind the words.

Work environment management on the ferry M/S Eckerö picked up radically in 2009 when the ferry was flagged as Swedish. Since then, both officers and crew have undergone a series of courses and training sessions, and today much more time and commitment is given to work environment issues than in the past.
“Generally speaking, we have made much more progress with work environment management in Sweden than in Finland. We have had to learn a lot of new things,” says Christer.
Systematic work environment management, risk assessment and the role of safety officers are some of the topics covered during training. Much of what Swedish law requires is also in Finnish legislation, according to Christer. The big difference lies in how the work is documented.
“On Finnish ships they are probably more used to talking together and then starting up and doing things. Here you have to write and record much more.”
”We have had the Transport Agency onboard several times to talk about this and we will probably continue in the same way. It is important that everyone stays involved and that we update our knowledge.” Christer says that one effect of the work environment training is greater interest among the crewmembers. Many have become aware of the work environment and think it is fun to work with it.
“They know more about it and have better confidence in these issues, and they know they are capable. This makes their work more fun, and that is perhaps the most important thing of all,” he says.
”Incredibly good food ”
One clear work environment decision recently taken onboard was to stop using two-component paint on the ship.
“It was a great decision because two-component paint is the best paint used in shipping. But because of the health risks to the deck crew who use it, we decided to change to one-component paint. It may not be the right decision for everyone, but we thought it was good enough for our ships and our area of operations in view of the reduced health risks.”
In the motivation for the SAN prize that Christer and his two officers received at this year’s SAN Conference in Gothenburg, the good atmosphere onboard was given a special mention.
Chris agrees that the feeling of solidarity is good.
“It is like a family with us. We work closely and have short decision paths, both onboard and within the shipping company. But having a good atmosphere does not depend only on us, of course – everyone is part of that.” During the low season the crew on Eckerö is about 60, while during the hectic summer months there are up 110 people onboard. That is a lot more than on the tanker Christer served with before he came here 10 years ago.
“They are completely different worlds. Transporting passengers is a different challenge and puts other demands than when you have oil in the hold. The crew is also much larger here and we work a lot more with soft values than on the previous ship I worked on.”
“They are completely different worlds. Transporting passengers is another challenge”
Eckerö takes passenger traffic between Grisslehamn in Northern Roslagen and Eckerö on Åland. When the ship moors in the evening, many people take the opportunity to go ashore and have a walk.
“Walking together is good for the atmosphere and there are many who take the chance, since we are usually berthed all night.”
Another reason that people feel comfortable onboard, according to Christer, is the excellent food in the canteen.
– “We have incredibly good food and it is usually the chef himself who cooks it. Food has always been our strongest trademark and they really put great efforts into it. It is probably just as well that the crew go out walking in the evenings as often as they do!”

Age: 50
Family: Partner, Sonja, son Benjamin, 1, and adult daughters Camilla, 27, and Jennika, 20.
Lives: Hammarland on Åland
Job: Master of M/S Eckerö
Background: Born and grew up in Mariehamn on Åland. 20 years as officer on Swedish, Åländska and Norwegian ocean-going ships, mainly tankers and OBO vessels. M/S Eckerö since 2002.
Current: One of three recipients of this year’s SAN prize.
On the work environment:Work environment activities are not done because the employer demands it. You do it to create a safer, more functional and more enjoyable place to work for yourself and your colleagues.
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