International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 1
Number 4
December 2007
Investigation the Root Causes of Seafarers’
Turnover and its Impact on the Safe Operation
of the Ship
F. Turker & I.D. Er
Maritime Transportation Management Department, Istanbul, Turkey
ABSTRACT: Thus, the importance of turnover from the point of view of managers’ is that a high rate of
turnover not only necessitates a costly personnel replacement, recruitment, selection and training of new
personnel but also disrupts normal operations resulting in a loss of productivity and safety. Besides a loss of
critical personnel who is carrying out core activities, like master, chief engineer or chief officer that can not be
compensated easily with an other competent alternative, it could definitely result in a loss of production and
loss of a skilled worker who is competent and reliable with safety precautions and company politics which
means loss of thousands of dollars in maritime transportation.
This study concentrates on making an investigation on “intention to quit” and its antecedents. Consequently
the effects of turnover on both organizational and safety aspects and their countermeasures are discussed in
Work has been at the centre of the human life since
the beginning of the settled societies. From the times
of the industrial revolution and onwards work has
become a central issue in the human life.
The more economic life organized itself in terms
of improved economic activities, the more the role
played by regular work in economic life became.
With the increases importance of work life in the
social life of people, the satisfaction taken from the
job a person performs has become an important
issue. The attitude of the employees toward work
and the satisfaction they get from their work has
been crucial element for work places - especially for
the crew onboard a ship where the seafarers are lack
of common social activities that the workers have in
other jobs.
Today the term job satisfaction is a key element
of the human resources management context. Many
multi-national firms in the global market are giving
utmost care to this subject and researchers are
conducting empirical studies to find out the various
determinants of employee satisfaction from the job.
However maritime industry research is relatively
new is this field of studies.
Studies shows that highly satisfied employees
tend to have better mental and physical health,
learn new job related tasks more quickly, have
fewer on the job accidents. Regarding the maritime
accidents for the last 15 years, statistics shows
that 80% of them is connected to human errors.
Therefore International Maritime Organization (IMO)
encourages studies on human element and human
errors to eliminate the error caused by seafarers and
decrease the accidents in maritime transportation.
Staffing and training qualified crew is the key
element in this issue. Hence Maritime Transportation
Companies are giving long term based training to
their seafarers which are expensive to increase the
quality of the work force which will surely result in
high performance and low human error. The main
problem here is high turnover rates due to the
structure of the work force of seafarers.
The determinants of intention to turnover and
decrease in performance in the organizations and
their impacts on turnover and productivity are very
important for the healthy operation of the
organization. When taken separately both job
satisfaction and organizational commitment have
significant impact on both intention to turnover and
job performance. Here job satisfaction is in general,
the degree to which an individual feels positively or
negatively about the various facets of the job tasks,
the work settings and relationships with supervisors
and co-workers and organizational commitment
refers to the strength of the employee’s involvement
and identification with the organization
In this study we have conducted an empirical
research to evaluate the effect of job satisfaction and
organizational commitment on intention to quit
(turnover) on Turkish seafarers. The Statistical
Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) program was
used to analyse the data of the study. Simple
correlation, multiple regression analysis Anova
analysis are performed through the use of SPSS to
see the relationship between the independent and the
dependent variable of job satisfaction, organizational
commitment and intention to turnover.
2.1 Job Satisfaction
Job satisfaction has certain sine qua son dimensions,
without which satisfaction obtained from the job can
not be accurately understood. Based on these
dimensions job satisfaction is said to be:
An emotional response to a job situation which
makes it unobservable, but which can only be
Often determined by how well outcomes meet or
exceed the expectations.
A representation of several related attitudes
(Luthans, 1992).
In the literature, job satisfaction has traditionally
been tied to the satisfaction of employees’ both
economic and non-economic needs. The empirical
analysis done by Hallowell, et al. (1996) suggests
that the non-economic need satisfaction is more
important than economic needs satisfaction.
Many studies propose that, although very
important, job satisfaction is not broad as
organizational commitment. Lum, et. al. (1998) see
job satisfaction as a mediator between environmental
and personal characteristics and organizational
It is difficult to be precise about the sources of job
satisfaction since there are many variables that are
being influential. Today the main debate is being
carried around the issue of determination of the
factor themselves. There are several researchers who
have studied the sources of job satisfaction.
Arnold and Feldman (1986), McAfee and
Champagne(1987) had determined six sources of job
satisfaction to use in their research, which are
namely pay, supervision, the firm as a whole, the
work itself, co-workers and advancement as the most
frequently studied.
Job satisfaction is important for its various
outcomes, but first of all it is important since “job
satisfaction in and of itself is a desirable outcome”
(Luthans, 1992). According to Mitchell (1982), there
are four main topics, which separated satisfied and
dissatisfied employees. These are turnover, absence,
health and productivity. From the point of seafarers
“absence” can not be count as main topic because
of the work place conditions “being absent” can
not be occurred. However being late to watch
keeping shifts may exist which can be identified
quickly. Hellrieger et. al. (1995) added that, these
four behavioural consequences give an idea to
management about the problem at work.
Many researchers analyzed the link between job
satisfaction and turnover and in most of them it is
found that the relation is low (McAfee and
Champagne, 1987). A great deal of research is
conducted about the relationship between job
satisfaction and turnover and it is concluded that,
satisfaction and turnover are negatively correlated.
The greater the satisfaction, the lower the turnover
rate (Mitchell, 1982). Job satisfaction is related to
turnover rates where a high turnover rate may be
highly costly for the organization since it requires
selection of the new personnel, their training and
orientation to the company.
Arnold and Feldman (1986) offer that it is
difficult and costly to replace the employees and it
causes direct and indirect cost to the company. The
remaining employees may be demoralized following
these losses (Davis and Newstorm, 1998). Of course,
job satisfaction should not to be seen as the sole
determinant of turnover. It may be better to define
the relationship between job satisfaction and
turnover as follows: High job satisfaction does not
guarantee low turnover but low job satisfaction
creates intentions to turnover.
2.2 Organizational Commitment
The concern with the organizational commitment
came from its impact on turnover and the beliefs that
it is a better predictor of turnover than job
satisfaction (Ko et. al., 1997).
“Organizational Commitment refers to the
strength of an employee’s involvement in and
identification with the organization” (Hellrieger et.
al., 1995) Mitchell (1982) gave the same definition
in terms of employee’s loyalty and identification
with the organization. Luthans (1982), Hellrieger
et. al. (1995), Scandura and Lankau (1997) used
Mowday, Steers and Porter’s classification on
organizational commitment as:
Employee’s strong belief in and acceptance of
goals of the company and its values.
Employee’s great effort on behalf of the
A strong desire to continue his membership for
the particular organization (Mowday, et. al. 1979).
School (1981) determines four mechanisms
through which commitment evolves. These
mechanisms are: (1) investments, (2) reciprocity, (3)
lack of alternatives, (4) identification. Investment
refers to any kind of investment the employee thinks
he/she has made in present job. If these investments’
values are high for the employee, he/she will not be
willing to quit even if he/she has dissatisfied
expectations. One of the most common this kind of
investments from the view of the seafarer is the
expectation of being promoted to the shore based
staff of the shipping company. Reciprocity works
through making the employees feeling themselves in
debt to the employing company by rewarding them
higher than their expectations. This kind of
behaviour is very common at officers who are
promoted to chief officer or chief officers who are
promoted to captains by their companies before they
have expected. Feeling in debt draws them away
from the idea of quitting even if they would like to
do so in other circumstances. Another mechanism is
lack of alternatives which may also stop employees
from quitting even if they are dissatisfied with their
jobs. Identification is a moral tie rather than a
calculative one that prevents an employee from
leaving. It works through linking one’s social
identity with his/her role in the employing company.
Very similar to Shermerhorn, et. al. (1994),
Hellrieger, et. al. (1995) define organizational
commitment as “the strength of an employee’s
involvement in and identification with the
organization” as we mentioned before. According to
this definition, a strong organizational commitment
involves dedication to organization’s goal and
values, a desire to show effort for the organization
and a strong willingness to stay on the job as a
member of the organization. It is not simply loyalty
since loyalty to the organization does not include
dedication to organizational values and goals.
Another characteristic of organizational commitment
that Hellrieger et. al. mention is its broadness which
comes from the fact that organizational commitment
applies to the whole organization rather than the job
itself (Hellrieger et. al. 1995).
Organizational commitment is an attitude about
employees’ loyalty to their company and it is an
ongoing process through which organizational
participants express their concern for the organiza-
tion and its continued success and well-being. Lum
et. al. (1998) cited DeCoutis and Summers’ (1987)
strong emphasis on the broadness and importance of
the concept of organizational commitment as a
global attitude acting as a stabilizer of behaviour
direction when expectancy/equity conditions are
not met.
Mowday, et. al. (1982) categorised factors
influencing organizational commitment which
involves investigating the factors in broad categories
that they name personal factors, organizational
factors and non-organizational factors.
The consequences of organizational commitment
can be identified under four topics:
Committed workers contribute to innovations and
creativity (Aven, 1993).
Committed are willing to work more to serve
their organization, contributing to greater
effectiveness in their organization. (Ostroff,
Committed employees perform better (Jaush and
Glueck, 1978).
Commitment predicts turnover which is very
costly for organization (Porter et. al., 1974).
Since turnover is costly to an organization, this
relation has been studied thoroughly. A negative
relation between organizational commitment and
turnover was found by Porter et. al. (1974), where
the more committed the employee is, the less turnover
the organization has. This findings was supported by
Allen and Meyer (1990), Angle and Perry (1981),
Koch and Steers (1976), Aven et. al. (1993).
Consequently of all above findings, it can be said
that organizational commitment influences maritime
companies in two ways: benefiting more from
seafarers because of their presence, they perform
better and contribute more than individuals who are
not committed which shows its effect with less
accidents therefore safe ship operations and more
involved to company values and goals that results in
successful inspections, and the other benefit is not
losing such a good seafarer.
2.3 Turnover
“Turnover” is the loss of employees by the
organization for variety of reasons (Werther and
Davis, 1989). There are two kinds of turnover. Those
are voluntary turnover which seen through
resignation or retirement and the involuntary
turnover seen through layoff or discharge (French,
1994). Either voluntary or involuntary employee
turnover should be analyzed because each one has an
impact on the organization. Unexpected turnovers
can be difficult for the organization to fullfill the
empty position.
Lum et. al. (1998) stated that many researchers
have developed models to explain turnover
behaviour. In general, such models suggest that
turnover behaviour can not be explained without
employing attitudinal, decisional and behavioural
components. They also suggest that turnover is
a multistage process, which involves three
main determinants: individual factors, economic
opportunity and work-related factors. Curran (1980)
investigates turnover as a function of the job, which
represents the job characteristics of the industry and
an average employee; the employee characteristics in
that industry and labor market conditions. She find
out a significant relationship between turnover and
unemployment as well as wage levels.
Traditionally, researchers focused on job
satisfaction and organizational commitment which
are predictors of intention to turnover, as primary
precursors of voluntary turnover. The higher the job
satisfaction and the organizational commitment of
the employees, the less the turnover is. Today, many
of the studies are done by investigating personal
variables which have significant impact on voluntary
turnover (Jenkins, 1993).
For the study a total of 77 seafarers was utilised on a
voluntary basis. The analysis has been carried out for
active seafarers who are still working onboard the
The questionnaire form has three main
instruments. The job satisfaction instrument was
mainly adopted from Minnesota Satisfaction
Questionnaire (MSQ) which was developed by
Weiss, Dawis, England and Lofquist (1967) cited in
Cook et. al. (1981) and developed by the researchers
based on seafarers. Organizational commitment
instrument was designed by the researchers through
analysing many related topics and questionnaires and
adapted mainly from work by Cook and Wall (1980)
and Cook et. al. (1981). The questionnaire is
prepared by taking the identification involvement
and loyalty dimensions into consideration. Intention
to turnover instrument included two-items and was
designed by the researchers. These two-items are
presented after the organizational commitment
instrument. Responses to all the items in the
questionnaire are given on a six-point likert scale.
In order to test the internal consistency of the
instruments used in the study, the Cronbach alpha
formula was used and the coefficient of internal
consistency found to be acceptable as seen in
Table 1 which means that the instruments are
Table 1. Internal consistency of the instruments
Cronbach α
Organizational Commitment
Intention to tunover
Job Satisfaction
Factor analysis is applied to each instrument to
identify the main factors of the related instrument.
The analysis of commitment instrument resulted
parallel to the three-component model of
commitment which is developed by Allen and Meyer
(1990). Table 2 shows the factors and their
Table 2. Consistency of the sub-scales of the commitment
Cronbach α
Factor 1: Affective Commitment
Factor 2: Normative Commitment
Factor 3: Continuance Commitment
The analysis of job satisfaction resulted in a 3
factors. The items that have factor loading lower
than 0.50 has been eliminated. Remaining three
factors a named according to the items they
involved. Table 3 shows the factors and their
Table 3. Consistency of the sub-scales of the job satisfaction
Job Satisfaction
Cronbach α
Factor 1: Satisfaction regarding to
the co-worker relations
Factor 2: Satisfaction regarding to
the achievement
Factor 3: Satisfaction regarding to
the pay
After the analysis of the intention to turnover
instrument one factor had been determined as
expected. The internal consistency of the factor is
0.82 and explained the total variance of 76,1%.
Corelation analysis is carried out between the
independent variables of the study (affective
commitment, normative commitment, continuance
commitment, satisfaction regarding to the co-worker
relations, satisfaction regarding to the achievement
and satisfaction regarding to the pay) and the
dependent variable intention to turnover. Corelation
analysis of the variables are shown in table 4.
Table 4.Correlation Matrix of Variables andSignificiance
*Significant at p < 0.05
The correlation analysis shows that affective
commitment (cf1) and normative commitment (cf2)
has a strong negative corelation with turnover where
continuance commitment (cf3) has a positive
corelation. On the other hand all factors of job
satisfaction has negative corelation with turnover.
Lastly the data subjected to multiple regression
analysis. The results of model summary, Anova tests
and regression coefficients are shown in table 5,
table 6 and table 7 respectively.
Table 5. Model Summary of Regresyon Analysis
Model R R Square
Adjusted R
Std. Error
of the
1 ,953(a) ,907 ,877 ,52355
Here R square represents explanation of the
dependent variables by the independent variable,
which is 0,877.
Table 6. Anova Results of Regression Analiysis
Sum of
The last column in table 6 represents the
significiance of the model which in this case
significiant(Significant at p < 0.05).
From the results of the Table 7 it can be seen that
only normative commitment and satisfaction
regarding to the pay have a significant relation with
intention to turnover. The other factors of both
organizational commitment and job satisfaction is
found to be not explonatary in this study.
Remember that in the corelation analysis we
have determined a strong yet negative corelation
between turnover and affective commitment however
reggression analysis shows that this corelation is not
an explonatary between turnover and affective
Table 7. Coefficients of Regression analysis
The study shows that from the view of the Turkish
seafarers the most important factors affecting their
intention to quit are satisfaction regarding to the pay
and especially normative commitment.
Normative commitment is eliminated although
other studies in the field point it as the most
important factor affecting the intention to quit. This
difference can be explained by the social structure of
the Turkish people in our case Turkish seafarers.
Normative commitment has a very important role on
the social structure and the relationships between the
people. Hence this importance is affecting the work
life. Also satisfaction regarding to the pay has an
impact on intention to quit.
HRM departments of the shipping companies
should dwell on to the turnover rates and factors that
are affecting it. Its importance not only comes from
the heavy cost of training and employing a new crew
but rather losing an dependent, safe worker who
knows, understands and obeys the regulation and
company policies on safety and operation of the
A 15-year of major claims (costing over US$
100,000) by the UK P&I Club (1987-2003) found
that the human element was contributory factor in
54% of these by number, or 62% by cost.
Extrapolating this across the worldwide industry
gives a direct attributable cost of US$ 2.6 billion
(UK P&I Club, 2004).
The key to eliminate the human error in a
company is employing well-qualified crew. However
these “well-qualified crews” are not easily found
which fits your company needs and can easily be
lost. Therefore shipping companies in Turkey prefer
to take new graduates and train them according to
their needs. But what if they “intent to quit”? All
those expensive trainings are lost and the company,
to keep the ship running, employees who ever
it finds, whether qualified or not. This kind of
scenarios generally ends with the name of the
insurances companies.
Therefore to ensure safe operation of the ship and
eliminate human error, companies should employ
qualified personal or rather employ and training
them according to their needs. But moreover they
should keep them within the company.
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