A leading International Maritime Organisation (IMO) official has told shipmanagers that they should inform certifying administrations if they believe cadets are being granted certificates of competency without attaining the required standards.
The call comes after shipmanagers complained at the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC) conference in London that cadet training schemes are putting safety at risk by failing to provide junior officers with basic seafaring skills.
Belel Ahmed, managing director of tanker manager Western Shipping, says the problem is particularly acute in the tanker industry. He says newly qualified junior officers can require between six and eight months additional onboard training before they are able to carry out the job.
Others suggest some junior officers are unable to conduct basic watch duties after qualifying. They complain that this position is often the most difficult to fill because of the additional training and assistance that has to be arranged.
But Milhar Fuazudeen, head of the Maritime Training and Human Element department of the Maritime Safety Committee at the IMO, says that under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), cadets who have been awarded a certificate of competency (CoC) should be able to carry out a watch and not require additional basic training.
“If you have a CoC you should be fit for purpose,” he told the conference. “If you are not it is a failure of monitoring and training by the certificate of competency issuing administration. “It must be reported to someone at some time,” he said.
He added that such cases should be brought to light so the problem can be identified and the issue can be handled by the relevant authority or administrations concerned.
Fuazudeen was a key figure in the recent revision of the STCW that was intended to modernise the convention and improve standards.
Delegates at the conference identified a number of key areas they believe could be behind the fall in cadet training standards.
One is the use of cadets as “cheap labour” onboard vessels rather than developing seafaring skills. Another is that onboard training has been reduced to 12 months rather than the 24 or more that cadetships often lasted previously.
There is also a problem in substandard crewing companies supplying untrained crew — described as “body shops” by one delegate.
Another continuing problem is the fraudulent issuing of CoCs where cadets “don’t even have to sit an exam”, in the words of one delegate. National cadet training schemes can cost shipowners up to $70,000 per cadet with around only one-quarter refundable through tonnage tax incentive schemes. Shipmanagers complain that many such schemes provide little “return on equity”.
Last week, TradeWinds reported how the Philippines has dramatically cut the number of recognised seafarer education institutions following complaints over standards by the European Maritime Safety Agency (Emsa).
Others at the conference countered that the problem is not as bad as depicted by many managers who, they claim, exaggerate the poor quality of modern training simply to reflect favourably on standards during their own time at sea.
It was also suggested that it is natural to have a “transition period” between qualifying as a cadet and working as a junior officer that would require monitoring of the individual’s work.
It was further pointed out that it was the managers’ and owners’ decision to restrict cadet training to a year, and that time period simply reflects the minimum standard, not a mandatory requirement under the STCW. Managers are now exploring ways to improve the quality of cadet training with mentoring schemes being developed to try to help cadets get more out of the education.
The UK runs a dedicated mentoring scheme as part of its cadet-training programme. But John Bazley, head of professional studies at Warsash Training Institute, says it is important not to overformalise how mentoring schemes are run. He says to leave it instead to the initiative of the mentor and the cadet.
The Nautical Institute’s Steven Gosling says mentoring is about “improving the quality of the seafaring experience”.
“Seafarers are in need of successful mentoring relationships onboard,” he said. “It should be a mindset, part of the company culture,” he added.
In a separate development at the IMEC, chief executive Giles Heimann has stepped down to join Bernard Schulte Shipmanagement in Cyprus. His replacement from June this year has been named as Francesco Gargiulo, a human resources executive who has formerly worked at MSC Cruises, K Line LNG and P&O Princess Cruises.
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