4th International Forum on Seafarers’ Education, Training & Crewing (ETC 2016)
Odessa, 20-21 April
There was a good, international mix of presenters at this now well established Forum efficiently organised by the Odessa National Maritime Academy which has recently been granted University status. The Rector, Professor Mykhalyo Miyusov, exercised a quiet authority over proceedings combined with warm hospitality and it was good to see that the TK Foundation had funded a significant attendance of cadets. A feature throughout the two days was the enthusiasm of these bright, young entrants to our industry and the searching questions they posed to most of the speakers within the sessions and during the meal breaks.
Another feature was the consensus amongst the employers attending that Ukrainian seafarers are professional and reliable, making them sought after by the crewing agencies and ship managers, so the cadets should have a secure future.
The Forum had four sessions and two panel discussions over the two days covering:
- Human Factors
- Employer and Employee Cooperation
- Seafarer’s Professional Development
- Maritime Education and Training
Kuba Szymanski, Secretary General of InterManager, set the scene on Human factors by focusing on the need for Fatigue Risk Management (FRM) using the research output of the Project Martha conducted by Warsash Maritime Academy which built on their previous Project Horizon. These unequivocally showed that 60% of those on the 6 on / 6 off watch system fell asleep on watch. Longer term fatigue was also tested by comparing work on deep sea container ships and coastal chemical tankers. In both, the Master, 3rd Officer and AB were found to be fatigued towards the end of their 8 weeks assignment but the fatigue level on container ships was higher due to the effect of time zones adjustments. He commented that research has shown that Masters and Chief Engineers are only spending about 9% of their time on the bridge or in the engine room as office management, i.e. administration tasks, now take up the vast majority of their time. He concluded that FRM is coming to the regulatory system via Australian and American moves at the IMO so the industry should embrace it without waiting for it to be made mandatory – we owe it to our seafarers to help them run ships safely.
Building on some of these points and extending them to safety in general, Pradeep Chawla, MD of Anglo-Eastern Shipmanagement, assured us that any accident will have safety ‘experts’ ashore questioning the safety culture on board. However, there is no consensus on what is a safety culture as there are many definitions and he admitted that to be 100% safe at sea is impossible due to the, at times, hostile natural environment. Nevertheless, striving to be as safe as possible is achievable and requires commitment from the top of the company. This needs to be consistent, continuous and visible in good times and bad, even though there will always be cost pressures. The style and tone of communicating this is crucial, both from the office and on board, with no normalization of deviating from the required standard. He asserted that human error can be detected in 100% of accidents but maintained that 80% of the causes can and should be traced back to the decisions taken in the office
ashore. Seafarers should be treated fairly at all times and the key to safety improvement is learning from incidents and empowering employees to report unsafe practices.
A number of presentations covered career opportunities as well as terms and conditions for seafarers. The work of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Minimum Basic Wage negotiated through the International Bargaining Forum (IBF) was explained and it was noted that the shipping industry is the only one to have such a mechanism in place. Nevertheless, market pressures still play a major part in employability and actual wage levels above the minimum and it was assessed that whilst Ukrainian ratings are generally being priced out of the market, the officers are very much in demand so investing in their training is worthwhile. Overall, career prospects were deemed to be good despite the current recession, and not just for Ukrainians. A recurrent theme here was that to turn good opportunities into reality required aspiration and more than just a Certificate of Competency. Demonstrating one’s quality was essential, both in the professionalism of your work on board or in the office and through undertaking effective continuing professional development (CPD). By effective was meant not just attending courses or events but reflecting on their usefulness and applying the knowledge gained. It was heartening that those speaking about their own companies efforts on CPD were including internships to help with the transition from ship to shore jobs, in part to address the tendency of ex-seafarers to try and control all aspects on board as if they were still there. There were also efforts in hand to reduce the administration burden and these two things together were aimed at letting seafarers do the real job they were employed for i.e. safely operation the ship. A panel of serving seafarers at the end of the first day generally gave a positive assessment of MLC 2006 in terms of its effect on crewing agencies and improved medicals but said that good companies were already implementing its requirements anyway. Increased audits and paperwork generally were a downside and it was clear that little of no training had been provided to those tasked with implementing the Convention on board nor were wages increased for the additional workload.
Pulling the sea-going and shore based parts together, Bogdan Zelenski – President of Alpha Navigation, spoke passionately on leadership and the need for training in this crucial art. Echoing much of the presentations we at the Institute made back in 2002/03 when we sought to raise the awareness of this need, he categorically maintained that leaders are not born. They are developed through personal inclinations and circumstances as well as training and they learn from other leaders. Bogdan asserted that the industry is in dire need of more leaders at all levels and for too long much of the industry’s standard training has been geared to producing followers. He defined leadership as being able to influence people to do what you wish them to do with or without the authority to impose it. Crucial to good leadership is effective communication and that includes being a good listener with a positive attitude. Above all, speak of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.
Day Two continued the focus on CPD and career development with an inevitable element of repetition of views expressed previously but it gave the Institute the opportunity to show the role of professional bodies in providing both CPD and career progression because of it. The importance of mentoring in all its forms (directly in person and indirectly through publications and MARS reports) was emphasised and the Institute’s introductory video seemed to be a welcome relief from the stream of powerpoint presentations. The personal testimonials of members from around the world built into the film are indeed a powerful example of CPD in action.
Papers on Maritime Education and Training (MET) logically concluded the Forum as it is through MET that many of the improvements proposed will have to be delivered. The role of vocational and academic MET in this delivery was expounded by Michael Ekow Manuel from the World Maritime University in Malmo. He recognised the perceived differences between vocational (practical) training and academic education but asserted that the industry needs to deliver both to produce the thinking professionals its needs in the more complex working environment of today and the future. The work of the International Association of Maritime Universities in helping to produce the necessary courses and qualifications was covered by Takeshi Nakazawa whilst the implementation of STCW 2010 Manila Amendments was put into perspective by the Rector and Vice-Rector of ONMA. As befits the academic profession, all these MET papers are available in full from the Forum organisers at the ONMA.
Alexander Dimitrevich rapped up the session with an update on the work of the Sailors’ Society Education Programme, particularly the MLC related Wellness at Sea aspects, before representative of Transas and Kongsberg covered their latest developments in simulation. A suitable reminder of the constant need for MET and CPD to continue to evolve so as to keep pace with technology and the changing requirements for professionals in our industry. As ever in the Ukraine, the hospitality was warm and the Forum well organised. It was good to see a higher international participation than two years ago at the height of the Crimea crisis and it was clear from walking around this beautiful city that much economic development has occurred since then despite continuing problems in the east of the country.
Philip Wake, OBE MSc FNI