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    Improved port performance through training:

    The contribution of the International Labour Organization


    Marios Meletiou

    Technical Specialist (Ports and Transport)

    Social Dialogue, Labour Law, Labour Administration and

    Sectoral Activities Department

    International Labour Office

     nd22 International Port Conference

    - “Human Resources and Sea Ports Performance” -

    12 14 March 2006, Alexandria, Egypt.


    For the last few decades, the focus of the port sector has been mainly on technological advances that make productivity less dependent on human effort, knowledge and skills. But recent years have witnessed a growing acknowledgement by the port industry that appropriate attention must also turn to performance improvement through people. Ports should be seen as “socio-technical” systems because, in practice,

    operations in port terminals are carried out by a partnership between human beings and technology. This partnership, however, can only be successful if appropriate emphasis is given to Human Resource Management (HRM) and particularly the training component of HRM, an often over-looked area that can have a significant impact on port performance. This paper provides an outline of some basic concepts of the theory of training and education as related to the port industry and presents the port-related ILO Conventions, Recommendations, Codes of Practice, Guidelines and Manuals as well as training materials developed by the International Labour Organization (ILO), which aim in the improvement of cargo handling performance, the working conditions and practices and safety, status and welfare of women and men working in ports.


    The task of finding port personnel who either possess or have the potential to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes that will enable a port business to carry out the tasks necessary for the achievement of its aims and objectives is obviously of fundamental importance. Although the selection of port personnel is usually designed to recruit the most competent individuals, they are unlikely to remain competent for the whole of their career. As changes take place in technology, infrastructure, procedures, competition, interfaces with other modes of transport, knowledge and innovations, so too will the demands placed upon specific jobs in the port industry. Such changes may also lead to the creation of jobs and disciplines, which are new to the traditional port industry. This is where training comes in. However, the whole training process for performance improvement from start to finish is complex and to be effectively accomplished it requires an understanding of the nature and background theory of the process. It would therefore be useful to outline some basic concepts of the theory of training and education as related to the port industry, which have been taken into account by the ILO when developing its port-related training programmes.


    The following three chapters provide basic information in this respect and examples on how such basic concepts of the theory of training have been incorporated in the main port-related training programme offered by the ILO; namely, the Portworker Development Programme (PDP). Subsequent chapters provide an outline of all port-related training opportunities currently offered by the ILO.



    Since the underlying premise of this conference is the improvement of port performance through people it is only fitting that the term “port performance” is firstly defined.

    At organizational level Port Performance comprises the following three basic outputs:

    Effectiveness + Efficiency + Port personnel satisfaction

    Obtaining, employing and retaining suitable port personnel that would contribute to the effectiveness (accomplishment of explicit or implicit tasks) and the efficiency (best possible utilization of resources) of the port and at the same time portworkers to be satisfied with their work and their lives is costly and requires considerable effort. Therefore ports have a very strong vested interested in ensuring that these human resources are utilized as effectively as possible. There is convincing evidence that many ports are falling far short in making effective use of all the people they employ. To do this a port organization has to recognize that people are its most valuable asset, that they are not simply another factor of production for the achievement of short-term objectives. It should also be recognised that port personnel can become a reservoir of knowledge and skills, which must be nurtured and developed for the survival and future growth of the port business in the constantly changing and increasingly complex port industry environment. Experience from some port organizations (a good example is that of PSA Port of Singapore Authority) suggests

    that investments in people have resulted in substantial gains towards the achievement of the port’s strategic objectives.

    There is no need to overemphasize the importance of “Getting the right people and

    getting the people right” but defining these twin concepts is a step further towards

    achieving increased port performance through people.

“Getting the right peoplemeans planned recruitment processes, which provide the

    port business with the best available talent, consistent with the needs of the port business and its capacity to make full use of those recruited.

“Getting the people right” implies consistent policies and practices in training,

    retraining, educating and developing port staff and involving them as “partners” in the port business rather than as functionaries whose roles are restricted to obeying instructions.

    It is obvious that “Getting the people right” implies two categories of human resource policies and practices. The first category is related to learning processes and the second to port personnel motivation. Despite the fact that port personnel motivation is highly important for improved port performance, it is beyond the scope of this paper and it will therefore not be covered. However, it is important to point out that the

    provision of opportunities for appropriate training, education and development is one of the proven strategies for port workforce motivation.


    More often than not the terms “Training” and “Education” are used as synonyms and there is also some confusion as to what actually the term “Personal Development”

    implies. For this reason the first appropriate step in understanding the basic training theory upon which port workforce training should be best practiced is to highlight the definitions of these terms. The common denominator of these three terms is learning. Consequently, the understanding of the learning process is also a fundamental prerequisite for those responsible in “getting people right” in port organizations.



    “Training”, “Education” and “Personal Development” are the basic activity areas of what is known as “Human Resource Development” (HRD). The term HRD was

    first used by Professor Leonard Nedler of George Washington University. He introduced the term at the Conference of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) held in Miami some 40 years ago. Professor Nedler defined HRD as “the provision of organised learning experiences in a specified period of

    time, for the possibility of improving performance or general growth of individuals”.

    Let me elaborate on the key ideas in Nedler’s definition of HRD, which are learning

    and possibility.

    (a) Learning

    HRD contributes to the productivity effort through learning. However, learning by

    itself will not guarantee increased performance. We can be certain that where

    learning is needed and not provided, increased performance will not be achieved.

    For example, if a new piece of port equipment is purchased and operators are not

    provided with the necessary learning experiences to operate the new port

    equipment efficiently, it is unlikely that the new equipment will result in increased


    (b) Possibility

    It is important to note the significance of the word “possibility” as used in the

    definition of HRD. HRD practitioners avoid promising that learning alone will

    improve performance. All HRD can do is to provide learning, which could result

    in performance change.

    Having defined HRD, which encompasses “Training”, “Education” and “Personal Development” the definitions of these three terms can follow. There is a plethora of definitions, which have been used to describe “Training”, “Education” and “Personal Development”, however not all clearly differentiate between these three terms. While all three activities (training, education, personal development) aim in effective performance through the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes, training is learning related to the present job of the learner, education is learning related to a future job of the learner and personal development is not job-related and relies more upon the individual’s initiative. The importance of using a simple, a clear and a comprehensive definition as a basis for practice is that it focuses attention on the aim of each one of these three HRD activities. On the basis of the above explanatory remarks the following are proposed as examples of appropriate definitions:


    Training is a learning process in which learning opportunities and experiences are designed and implemented, which aim in developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes related to the present job of the learner.

    Training is necessary to achieve improvements in work performance, particularly when ports invest in new equipment, introduce new work procedures or redesign the workplace. Training takes place at a specific time and place, is usually vocationally relevant and limited to specific aims and objectives.

    There are many examples of this particular activity area of HRD either at port, enterprise, national or international level. Port training institutes all over the world offer on a routine or tailor made basis specific job-related training both at management (e.g. port operations management, port equipment planning, etc.) or at operational or technical level (e.g. operation of quay cranes, equipment maintenance, staffing/unstaffing of containers etc.).

    Education is a learning process that prepares people for a future job that may arise.

    It is important to recognise that immediate increased performance cannot be expected when education is used as a HRD intervention. Education takes place over a substantial but finite period of time, usually leads to a qualification and may result in leading you to a new career direction. However, education has been correctly recognised by many stakeholders in the port industry as an important investment for the near or long-term future and it forms an appreciable component of the port industry HRD system at national or international level, while in many cases education of port personnel is supported at port level on a systematic basis. As a an example of the provision of specialised education at international level is the case of the “World Maritime University” that has been established in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in Sweden and which can offer courses that may lead a Master’s Degree in a number of port related subjects. At port organization level one good example is the case of PSA that provides practical support for broader educational upgrading that enhances the effectiveness of its high-potential executives. PSA offers to outstanding performers sponsorships for graduate and post-graduate studies, both locally and overseas. Also at PSA, support employees, whether in administration, operations or technical areas, are sent for classes for basic or secondary education or Information Technology (IT) programmes.

Personal Development (or self-development), which is initiated by the individual, is a

    lifelong learning process of nurturing, shaping and improving an individual’s skills,

    knowledge and interests to ensure their maximum effectiveness and adaptability and to minimise the obsolescence of their knowledge and skills and their chances of redundancy.

    Personal development is not job-related. Although there may be some indirect benefits, personal development is not directly related to productivity. Hence it would be prudent to exclude personal development as a means of achieving productivity improvement. Personal development does not necessarily imply upward movement; rather, it is about enabling individuals to improve and use their full potential at each career stage. However, any support provided by port management to individual port employees for self-development is likely to contribute to employee satisfaction and generate more motivation. PSA is successfully practicing this policy for demonstrated


    support of port management to self-development. This policy is implemented under a special programme called “STAR” (Structured Training for Advancement and Results)

    within a broader HRD scheme at PSA under the title “opportunities for growing with PSA”.


    Since training (as well as education) is essentially a learning process, all those involved in port training need to have an understanding of learning and what needs to be taken into consideration in the design and provision of training in the port sector. The main questions to be discussed are what learning is and how people learn. There is a general consensus about the first question but much more debate about the second.

     “Learning” may be defined as a permanent change of behaviour, which occurs as a result of the influence of external, environmental stimuli on the inherent, genetic disposition of the individual.

    For the purpose of training a similar but more specific and simple definition of “Learning” is frequently used, which is as follows:

    “Learning” is a permanent change in behaviour that comes about as a result of a planned learning experience. (In simple terms training could be defined as the design and implementation of effective learning experiences).

    In the context of training it is useful to consider learning and behaviour change in three types of behaviour, cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (attitudes) needed for effective performance.

    How people learn has been the subject of continuing discussion and some controversy for many decades. Various theories have been fashionable at different times. Nevertheless, from the wealth of practical experience acquired over many years, it is possible to distil some basic, simple, general truths about leaning, which are fundamentally important to those responsible for the design and provision of training and are usually referred to as the “principles of adult learning”. These are outlined here below:

    (a) Learning depends on motivation.

    People must be motivated to learn. They must see a beneficial outcome for

    themselves. They must see how training could help them to perform their

    work efficiently. They must see a personal need for this to happen and to

    accept the methods chosen to achieve the training objectives. Port

    management as well as trainers are responsible for creating an environment

    and conditions conductive to this motivation. Ideally the intrinsic motivation

    of the trainee (perhaps based on a desire for self-development) is the most

    powerful form of motivation but extrinsic motivators such as the promise

    (carrot) of promotion can also be effective.

    (b) Learning depends on feedback.

    Feedback is important to the learning progress. People need to have feedback

    on their learning achievements. The trainee needs to be reminded of how he is

    progressing and where his strengths and weaknesses lie. If the learner is doing


    well then positive feedback will reinforce the process. If the learner is performing poorly then instant feedback is needed to correct and eradicate poor performance. The ILO Portworker Development Programme (PDP) includes a number of processes and tools that facilitate continuous feedback on the learning achievements of trainees such as feedback questionnaires, worksheets, exercises and tests, peer assessment, group work, discussions and other interactive sessions.

    (c) Learning experience must be meaningful.

    The learner will succeed if the learning experience is perceived to be meaningful and relevant. The ILO PDP is an excellent example that satisfies this criterion by being specifically relevant to the day-to-day needs of trainees.

    (d) Learning can only take place through the human senses & learners should be active.

    All human senses may contribute to the learning process but the visual is the most powerful and to a lesser degree the auditory. Certain research revealed that on average people tend to forget 65% of what they hear in one day and up to 95% in one week. However, they will only forget 60% of what they see and 20% of what they do. Many people express a similar situation in a qualitative way as follows: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand”. Learners who are active within the learning

    environment are more likely to retain and remember what they have learned. The ILO PDP is an excellent demonstration how this element of the learning theory can be successfully put into practice. The ILO PDP training material has been very carefully designed so that the trainee will get maximum benefit at the end of and after the training. It is supported by a large number of illustrations and organized visits to operational and other port facilities. It also involves a highly interactive teaching by encouraging the continuous involvement and active participation of trainees in various ways, such as practical exercises indoors and outdoors, problem solving, calculations, role playing, simulations, group discussions, report writing, practical handling of gear & equipment etc.

    (e) Goals must be set.

    Active participation in relation to specific learning goals creates a situation, which is highly stimulating to most learners. Human beings are naturally competitive and will strive to attain targets that are established for them. The use of clearly stated aims and objectives for trainees will help in this respect. It is reminded that some of these goals will be related to knowledge while others will be to develop skills. Each training unit of the ILO PDP includes a set of clear aims and objectives with which each training session is linked and against which the trainees are tested in a systematic manner.

    (f) Learning depends on the capacity to learn.

    A few adults who are performing adequately in their jobs are incapable for further learning, especially if that learning is itself work-related. The method used by the ILO PDP chief instructors for the selection of trainees that should follow a specific training programme takes into account this particular aspect.



    In a nutshell, effective training means that training actually achieves the purpose of

    helping people to perform their work to required standards and is at the same time affordable, i.e. not unnecessarily lavish, when simpler, less expensive forms would equally achieve the aims and objectives of the training.

    The question is how can this be achieved? It is achieved by applying a set of basic principles in a systematic way. This process is commonly known as the “Systems

    Approach to Training” (SAT). It is so called because it is a series of interdependent activities (sub-systems) functionally linked together and integrated in to the whole training system. The ILO acting in a highly professional manner has indeed put this particular SAT theory in to practice in the ILO PDP, which has been very successful. The ILO PDP follows a tried and tested format of the SAT, which is based on a self-correcting model of training provision and this would be a good example to refer to. The basic structure of this model is as follows:

    (a) Analyse training needs

    (b) Define training aims

    (c) Identify training objectives

    (d) Select strategy and media

    (e) Implement training

    (f) Evaluate effectiveness

    (g) Improve as necessary

    The implementation of each one of the activities comprising the above SAT model is associated with practical application of one or more important elements of the training theory, some of which are highlighted in the discussion that follows.

Training needs analysis:

    The starting point of any training that may stand any chance for being successful is the identification of training needs. It is a primary requirement of effective training that it must meet the actual, rather than imagined needs. Training needs arise at three levels organizational, group (or activity) and the individual. They are interdependent because the corporate performance of the port organization ultimately depends on the performance of its groups (e.g. equipment operators) and the individuals comprising these groups (e.g. a particular crane operator). Therefore it is important that training needs analysis should take into consideration the needs of both the organization and the individuals.

    The ILO PDP includes a training needs analysis approach that matches the training course to the needs of the port as an enterprise as well as those of the portworkers.

Training aims and objectives:

    A training aim is a general statement of intent that describes the general nature of the topic to be taught but does not define the trainee skills.

    An example of a set of training aims, which is drawn from the ILO PDP (Unit C.2.3: Container Securing Systems), is the following:

     “UNIT C.2.3: Container Securing Systems

    1. Unit Aims

    This Unit is designed:

    1. To explain why containers need to be secured during the sea voyage.


    2. To describe the main types of securing devices used on container vessels. 3. To explain how container securing devices are used.”

    A training objective is a statement of the skills, which a trainee will have after completing a training programme.

    These new skills imply a behaviour change in one or more of the three types of behaviour, which is associated with the learning process [cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (attitudes)]. For this reason it is useful to classify training objectives in a similar manner as follows:

; Cognitive training objectives: Associated with learning facts, principles,

    procedures analysing data, evaluating problems, undertaking calculations, etc.

    One example of a cognitive training objective, which is drawn from the list of

    objectives of the ILO PDP Unit C.6.2 (Measuring Container Terminal

    Performance), is the following:

    After completing this Unit, the learner will be able to:

    “Given data relating to the utilization of various terminal facilities and

    resources, calculate correctly the relevant utilization measures”.

; Psychomotor training objectives: Associated with practical processes

    involving hand / brain coordination, e.g. driving a forklift truck.

    One example of a psychomotor training objective is the following:

    After completing this training, the trainee will be able to:

    “Operate a container crane safely and efficiently”.

; Affective training objectives: Associated with the correct attitude of workers

    and managers to the job, the company, their colleagues, customers, etc.

    One example of an affective training objective, which is drawn from the list of

    objectives of the ILO PDP Unit P.3.1 (Handling Dangerous Cargoes in Ports), is

    the following:

    “State why portworkers must know how to recognize dangerous cargoes

    encountered in ports and the risks associated with them and handle them safely”.

    In fact the ILO PDP assigns considerable importance in developing the correct

    attitude of trainees in port training and particularly on safety. The approach

    followed in the ILO PDP is not confined only to show best practice but also to

    create the right motivation to adopt best practice by developing a positive

    attitude towards this practice (how to do it / why do it approach).

    Setting and using clear and “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable,

    Realistic, Time-scheduled) objectives in the design and implementation of port

    training is very important and has several advantages. These are:

    i) The trainees know precisely what is required of them

    ii) Different trainers know exactly what other ones are doing

    iii) It is easy to design tests to measure objective attainment

    iv) We can see at a glance whether essential areas have been forgotten

    or not.


    The ILO PDP has been designed on the basis of clear and “SMART” objectives.


    Productivity through people implies the increase of output with existing, or even decreasing, resources. Increasing productivity through people, however, is not a matter of having them work harder. Many people throughout the world, particularly in the developing countries, work extremely hard but have little output. The key is not working harder but working smarter. Sometimes, it is not possible to drive a good port labour force to work say 30% harder but it is possible that can work 30% or even 50% smarter. “Working Smarter” in a port terminal would mean for example, eliminating unnecessary tasks, developing a strong sense of teamwork, providing continuous training or giving workers more say about how to do their jobs and in problem solving. The psychosocial system has in many cases been neglected as a source of productivity improvement in the port sector. The ILO PDP has been designed to offer the opportunity for continuous training, as it comprises a large number of training units that cover training needs for all levels of a career development that a portworker may follow (induction courses for new and inexperienced portworkers to courses for changing specializations or for experienced supervisors of specialised port operations). Moreover, the PDP units are systematically updated and revised to reflect new developments in the port industry thus offering the opportunity for refreshing courses. The development of a positive attitude towards teamwork and of skills for eliminating unnecessary tasks is one of the main strengths of the PDP, while the encouragement of social dialogue that characterises all ILO training activities provides workers the opportunity to have a say about how to do their jobs and in problem solving.


     In addition to port productivity improvement, the PDP has been designed to enhance the status of portworkers. PDP training has proved that it helped to raise the professionalism and social status of portworkers and enhanced their motivation and commitment to productivity and quality of service.



    The ILO has to date developed the following port-related conventions, recommendations, guidelines and manuals, which are all supported by respective training materials:

    I. Conventions

    ILO conventions are international treaties, which are subject to ratification by ILO member State. They create binding obligations under International Law and might require member States to amend their national legislation. There are two current port-related ILO conventions. These are:

    ; Dock Work Convention (No. 137), 1973: Convention concerning the

    Social Repercussions of New Methods of Cargo Handling in Docks.

    This Convention assigns great importance on the worker-technology relationship in ports and particularly on the issues of efficiency and training. More specifically, Article 5 states that “cooperation should be encouraged between employees and their


organisations, on the one hand, and workers’ organisations, on the other, with a view

    to improving the efficiency of port work”. Moreover, Article 6 requires that appropriate vocational training provisions should apply to dock workers.

    ; Occupational Safety and Health (Dock Work) Convention (No. 152), 1979

    It is widely acknowledged that safe work is efficient work. For this reason, the ILO considers that this convention is highly relevant to port performance.

    This Convention includes a number of mandatory requirements regarding training. For example, Article 4, paragraph 1.(c) states the following:

    “National laws or regulations shall prescribe that measures complying with Part III of this Convention be taken as regards dock work with a view to providing the information, training and supervision necessary to ensure the protection of workers against risks of accident or injury to health arising out of or in the course of their employment”

    Article 4, paragraph 2.(r) states “the measures to be taken in pursuance of this Convention shall cover training of workers”. Also Article 38, paragraph 1 states “no worker shall be employed in dock work unless he has been given adequate instruction or training as to the potential risks attaching to his work and the main precautions to be taken”.

II. Recommendations

    ILO recommendations set out guidelines, which can orient national policy and action and often complement corresponding conventions. There are two current port-related ILO recommendations, which correspond to the above-mentioned ILO conventions. These are:

    ; Dock Work Recommendation (No. 145), 1973: Convention concerning the

    Social Repercussions of New Methods of Cargo Handling in Docks.

    This Recommendation, inter alia, calls for training and retraining to enable dockworkers to carry out several tasks as the nature of work changes.

    ; Occupational Safety and Health (Dock Work) Recommendation (No. 160),


    This Recommendation includes a provision that states the following: “With a view to preventing occupational accidents and diseases, workers should be

    given adequate instruction or training in safe working procedures, occupational hygiene and, where necessary, first-aid procedures and the safe operation of cargo-handling appliances.”

III. Codes of Practice

    The ILO has two current port-related codes of practice. These are:

    ; ILO Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Ports (2005)


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