Competence requirements of Future Mariner - GlobalMET

Mar 17, 2014, 4:43PM EST
GlobalMET considers knowledge, training, skill; experience and professional attitude as factors that could help mariners play a productive role and adhere to a safer and secure course   

Divergent views were expressed on the ‘Competence requirements of Future Mariners’ at the GlobalMET Annual Conference held this year last week. At one extreme was the possibility of seafaring profession becoming extinct with automation taking total control of shipping leaving little scope for mariners to operate ships. This according to A. K. Gupta, CMD of Shipping Corporation of India, who was the guest of honor, could take place by around 2050. “Be prepared there could be unmanned ships by then,” he said. In his address he characterized competence of seafarers under four “pillars” or heads. These were knowledge and education, training including classroom and hands-on, skills and experience.

The Chief Guest, Gautam Chatterjee, Director General of Shipping, Government of India however did not subscribe to the opinion of seafaring profession becoming extinct. He pointed out that despite BIMCO’s anticipation of a shortage, the share of Indian seafarers would go up by 2020 and the Indian region would continue to be a major supplier of mariners. “Safety and security of life at sea depends on professionalism and competence of seafarers,” he said. With regard competence he considers the need to add a fifth pillar (head) namely ‘the professional attitude’ which is also important to make seafarers’ competent. He was of the opinion that the industry considered the Directorate of Shipping playing the role of a teacher. He said that it should be the other way around and desired sailing master mariners to come and share their experience with the directorate regularly.

Capt KN Deboo, Director & Principal, Anglo Eastern Maritime Training Center and Chairman of GlobalMET India chapter said, “We need to differentiate between training and education. There is a shortage of officers but this was on certain types of category of vessels. India supplies 7% mariners to the global seafaring community and he hoped that this would increase to 9% by 2015.” He dwelt at lengths on the important aspects of man and machine interface.

Capt. Pradeep Chawla, Managing Director, QA & Trg, Anglo Eastern Ship Management – Hong Kong disagreed with Mr Gupta’s view but contended that automation will get integrated in various shipping operations but can in no way make the mariner extinct. He pointed out the shortage estimated by BIMCO was wrong because it has not taken into account several factors and in the next few years with the new buildings coming in demand for seafarers would go up.

Highlighting the “Human factors strategies for Achieving Ship Operational Safety and Efficiency in the Electronic Age” Dr. Michelle Grech, Head of Section-Human Factors, Ship Operations & qualifications, Ship Safety Division, AMSA, Australia, underscored the emerging challenges as ship sizes keep going up and their designs and operations getting more complex. “Experts warn against dependence on single technology as these have led to tragedies,” she cautioned. “But are we shifting the problems? We need to take a look at the concept development, planning and requirement analysis. Advances in technologies have made rapid strides. If you consider the equipment used for navigation and other ship operations 100 years ago it would fill up massive space but today the equipment used can be fitted into a bag.”   

Dr. Barry Strauch, of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), USCG, who spoke on the Training challenges of the electronic age” gave details about the studies he has undertaken of accidents. He tried to find out why these accidents happened, what went wrong, the errors committed by people and the how these could be avoided. “It is frustrating to see errors taking place which caused accidents and these being repeated again and again, just like the case with Costa Concordia.”  He advocated the need to design systems to reduce opportunities for errors. Particularly because marine environment is extremely dynamic with different forces such as water, wind, vessels are all moving in a complex interplay requiring extensive training to comprehend and respond to these forces. Over reliance on “automation” causes loss of situational awareness causing unique automation related errors. He stressed on the need to continue maintaining non automation skills.

Focusing on the “Competencies for the Future Mariner” David Squire, Editor ‘ALERT’, Nautical Institute, said it takes into consideration all the people involved in extending support to the mariner. “Human element or human factor is anything that effects human performance to be competent to deal with issues effectively. Human elements considerations don’t just start at the design stage of a ship and finish at build. They must be applied throughout its life cycle especially while updating its role or manning philosophies or when retrofitting new systems or equipment.” He expressed surprise that today decision making organizations like the International Maritime Organizations are represented by few seafarers. Naval architects, charterers and brokers, those with P&I clubs, etc., who have not been to sea and don’t have first-hand knowledge of the seafaring and shipping operations are at the helm of the industry.   

Speaking on the “Evolving competence requirements on tankers”, Dr. Phillip Belcher, Marine Director of INTERTANKO the representative body of independent tanker owners and operators of oil and chemical tankers mustering a fleet of around 3,300 tankers, said, “The goal of INTERTANKO is zero fatalities, zero pollution and zero detentions.” He claimed that 80% of all accidents at sea were a result of human error. Though rules have been framed for the safety, accidents occurring indicate that these rules were not being followed. The reason could either be as a result of lack of knowledge; taking a short-cut; lack of surveillance and enforcement; lack of trust; demonstrate professional skills, etc. But it is impossible to bring in rules to cover every aspect