Monday, 24 November, 2008

GlobalMET set to take away initiative from IMO

‘Train, Retrain and Retain’, is set to be the new mantra for maritime training institutes, grooming seafarers for “Building competence for Modern Day Ships”, an issue that was deliberated upon at the GobalMET conference held on November 17, 2008. Uniting under the banner of GlobalMET, at the Shipping Corporation’s MTI auditorium at Powai, Mumbai, representative of training institutes from Asian and Pacific region countries underscored the need to bring in relevance to the present training pattern which, designed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) had failed to address several needs of the seafaring community as training gurus had not been party to the evolving pattern.

This was the 9th conference in a series for GlobalMET, which saw a wide and heavy turnout of representatives of different institutions and training academies: Educationists, maritime gurus, ship owners and head honchos from the manning and ship management companies. The need of the hour is to keep abreast of the sea change turning the tide in the realm of maritime transport and accordingly address the issues which tend to leave seafarers in the lurch.

Rod Short, executive secretary, GLOBAL Maritime Education & Training Association informed in his opening address, “I am often being asked by cadets, ‘Why are we being burdened with subjects such as Astronavigation, when we are not likely to ever use it with operations now on board being electronic based?’ These are issues that need to be addressed.

“We must train and train and retrain and above all retain to ensure competency of the staff. It is time for an industry wide approach. Of course, we need to support the IMO but at the same time know what is required on board for maintaining competency.” In the past educators did not have a voice on the international front, he further informed. Now GlobalMET has been given representation on IMO and doors have been opened to their representatives.

In his address, S. Hajara, cmd of SCI, the chief guest at the function too underscored the need for training, retraining and retaining. He cautioned that unless seafarers became competent, shipping could not move forward. The industry was facing acute shortage of seafarers, he said. The youth did not find the profession attractive, partly because the adventurism of the past when ships remained at foreign ports for long periods of time permitting seafarers to see the world was now missing.

“As a result of seafarer shortage getting shore leave is also becoming difficult,” he said. “The criminalisation of seafarers as in the case of the recent Hebei Spirit incident and piracy too has become another discouraging factor.”

Ajoy Chatterjee, chief surveyor to the government of India was against the move for the reduction of pre-sea training period for engineers to only 12 months in order to churn out more seafarers for resolving the shortage problem. “Because there is a shortage of doctors you don’t reduce doctors’ training period to 12 months and send them to the operation theatre, do you? Who would want to risk being operated on by such doctors?”

Giving an insight into the legal issues faced by ships trading with the USA, George Chalos a leading counsel of the international law firm, Chalos & Co who has featured in numerous high profiles Federal and State court trials advised that the shipping industry is an easy target because shipping companies are considered to be rich and can pay fines. The public policy in the US is to bring in deterrence through fines, penalties and compliance programmes.

“Generally to be guilty of a crime in the USA, a person must act as a criminal,” he said. “Hence having a guilty mind can be dangerous. Anything can be a ‘red flag’ if one has a guilty mind. Every person is expected to reply to the authorities only through a lawyer. Be aware of the rules and do what you are expected to do.”

He went on to inform that a corporation/company can incur vicarious liability for the action of employees undertake in the course of their employment. He advised that it is not advisable to do things with the intention of trying to protect one’s company. That way one could actually be jeopardising his career. It is better to stay calm and obtain advice in the event of criminal investigation. Besides, one should never send anyone from their office to tell the crew and ship staff what to say because this too is a crime in the US.

“We have brought in a lot of compliance standards,” pointed out Oivind N. Braten, head of maritime management systems at DNV, a classification society based in Oslo. ”But when it comes to training, there are not many standards in place,” he said. “There is need for training delivery reports to make sure that training instructors are doing a proper job the right way and using the proper instructional aids, etc.”

Michael I. Blair, who is officially deputed by the office of the chief of the US Coast Guard (USCG) to attend the conference opined, “The USCG considers people to be the greatest resources. But unfortunately 85% of the accidents and damage are caused by the human element. The STCW has been incorporated in the US regulations but other IMO regulations have not.” He stressed the importance of shore leave and stated that the centre of excellence of the USCG focused on working towards the goal to work with the industry and achieve one’s goals.

The safety of life at sea has always been the focus of maritime training. This aspect of safety culture was dealt with in several aspects by other speakers too. Capt Pradeep Chawla, director, GlobalMET recapitulating emphasised that earlier any accident or damage was routinely considered to be a mistake. But today it is considered on par with the commission of a crime. Hence, training is the most important part of the seafaring profession. At the end of the day the teacher has to focus on what is needed he said. Are the right issues being focused on when training is being imparted? This is what training institutes need to look at before working out their respective syllabi.

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