Credit: @Ture Andersen /

In the vast expanse of the maritime world, where ships navigate treacherous waters and crews face demanding challenges, a crucial element often goes unnoticed: the power of trust and psychological safety. These two aspects, when nurtured by maritime leaders, form the bedrock of a high-performing team, fueling efficiency, innovation, and enduring success. 

This recent academic article by Maersk Training maritime psychologist Tine Dirckinck-Holmfeld, based on extensive research and interviews with experienced maritime leaders, delves into the profound impact of trust and psychological safety on maritime teams. The findings reveal that these elements are not mere abstract concepts; they are the driving forces behind exceptional performance and a fulfilling work experience for all involved. 

“Trust and psychological safety are the foundation of a good team and well-being on board. There won’t be any good teamwork if the members don’t feel psychologically safe.”
Comment by interviewed maritime leader 

The Essence of Trust 

Trust, the bedrock of any successful team, lies in the belief that individuals can rely on each other’s competence, integrity, and commitment. It’s the foundation upon which open communication, mutual respect, and a sense of shared purpose are built. When trust permeates a maritime team, crew members feel confident sharing their expertise, raising concerns, and offering suggestions, fostering a collaborative and innovative work environment. 

Psychological Safety: A Safe Haven for Growth 

Psychological safety, the perception that one can speak up without fear of negative consequences, is the cornerstone of a thriving maritime team. It’s a safe space where crew members feel comfortable expressing their opinions, admitting mistakes, and seeking help without fear of judgment or reprisal. This environment of psychological safety empowers individuals to contribute their full potential, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth. 

The Leadership Imperative: Nurturing Trust and Psychological Safety

Maritime leaders play a pivotal role in cultivating trust and psychological safety onboard vessels. Their actions and behaviours set the tone for the overall work environment, shaping the dynamics of the team. By consistently demonstrating trust in crew members’ capabilities, providing constructive feedback, and fostering open communication, leaders create a culture where individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered. 

Practical Steps to Champion Trust and Psychological Safety 

  1. Active Listening and Feedback: Actively listen to crew members’ ideas and concerns, providing constructive feedback that is both supportive and actionable.
  2. Empowerment and Ownership: Encourage crew members to take ownership of their tasks and responsibilities, giving them the freedom to make informed decisions.
  3. Open Communication and Transparency: Foster an environment of open communication, where crew members feel comfortable sharing their ideas without hesitation.
  4. Celebrate Successes and Recognize Achievements: Publicly recognize and celebrate crew members’ successes, fostering a sense of belonging and appreciation.
  5. Address Misconduct and Inappropriate Behavior: Promptly address any instances of misconduct or inappropriate behaviour, upholding the values of trust and respect. 

“As leaders, we need to show that we are engaged. We need to let the crew see that we understand, and we must learn to accept and be open to feedback. It will substantially contribute to team effectiveness, better decision-making, and greater performance.”
Maritime Leader 

The Impact of Trust and Psychological Safety

The benefits of fostering trust and psychological safety are far-reaching. When these elements are present, maritime teams experience: 

  1. Enhanced Collaboration and Teamwork: Crew members work together more effectively, sharing knowledge and expertise to achieve common goals.
  2. Increased Innovation and Problem-Solving: A culture of psychological safety encourages crew members to think outside the box, leading to creative solutions and improved problem-solving.
  3. Improved Retention and Recruitment: A positive and engaging work environment attracts and retains top talent, ensuring a skilled and experienced workforce.
  4. Reduced Risk of Human Errors: A culture of trust and psychological safety promotes open communication and early identification of potential issues, minimizing the risk of human errors. 


In the dynamic world of maritime operations, trust and psychological safety are not merely buzzwords; they are the cornerstones of a high-performing and engaged team. By cultivating these elements, maritime leaders can elevate their teams to new heights of success, ensuring safety, efficiency, and a fulfilling work experience for all involved. 

At Maersk Training we have years of experience in training maritime leaders all over the world and if you are interested in hearing how we can help your organisation, please reach out to our People and Performance division to start your journey today.   

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