Sri Lanka Gets The Nod, Georgia Gets The Bullet

 maritime safety news  Comments Off on Sri Lanka Gets The Nod, Georgia Gets The Bullet
Dec 072010

...But seafarers unwanted

Sri Lanka dodged the bullet but in the first of what may be several such cases to come, the European Commission has withdrawn recognition of STCW certificates issued by Georgia. The entire Georgian Maritime Administration has been fired and criminal prosecutions are being considered.

Says the country’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili: “… Now you see what type of results could be brought by someone’s incompetence, laziness, corruptness and crime”.

Based on the inspections held in 2006 the European Commission decided to determinate recognition of the country’s STCW certificates enabling EU member states to hire Georgian seafarers since 2001.

The unprecedented move has led Georgian Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia to fire the heads of the United Transportation Administration and appoint Captain Mamuka Akhaladze as head of the Maritime Administration.

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New IMO Provision to Fight Fatigue

 fatigue, IMO  Comments Off on New IMO Provision to Fight Fatigue
Jun 292010

image Under what are already being termed the Manila Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, watchkeeping officers and those whose duties involve designated safety, prevention of pollution and security duties are required to be provided with a minimum of 10 hours of rest in any 24 hour period and 77 hours in any 7 days.

The hours of rest may be divided into no more than two periods, one of which shall be at least 6 hours in length, and the intervals between consecutive periods of rest shall not exceed 14 hours.

Inevitably there are exceptions “to ensure a continued safe operation of ships in exceptional conditions”. Under these conditions the rest period may not be less than 70 hours in a seven day period and the exceptional arrangements must not last for more than two consecutive weeks. Intervals between exceptions may not be less than twice the duration of the exception. In addition: Continue reading »

Gangway for the Thriller In Manila

 publications  Comments Off on Gangway for the Thriller In Manila
Feb 232010


Anneley Pickles, managing director of Shiptalk Recruitment and arguably the Sandy Toksvig of the maritime industry, brings up an intriguing thought in her delightfully acidulous preview of the up-coming IMO Diplomatic Conference on STCW: Should folk who haven’t been onboard ship for five years still be allowed to go calling themselves ‘Captain’?

Under the heading Attracting new entrants and retaining seafarers for the maritime profession Ms Pickles comments: “Nice one! Good luck…One interesting idea we heard,
was to stop people calling themselves Captain if they haven’t served on a ship inside 5 years. That could keep ‘em at sea a while longer!”

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Aug 272009

No hardhat, no lifejacket, teaching safety?

MAC found a video on Yahoo, from which this is a still, of an instructor teaching an STCW certification lifeboat course. He’s not teaching it safely. It appears to be taking place in Eastern Europe.

Note: heavy dangly bits, no hard hat on the instructor. Everyone is wearing a lifejacket except the instructor.

If instructors don’t take safety seriously we can’t expect mariners to do so.

STCW Review – A Matter of Competency

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May 072008

This week sees the International; Maritime Organisation’s Maritime Safety Committee,MSC, meet to oversee the most extensive review of the Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, STCW, convention for a dozen years. Much has changed in those dozen years and the review will focus on manpower, training and development, and more generally the human resource issues affecting the industry, but will it reach on meaningful global standards and, most importantly, seafarer competency?

It is the last of those that will prove a difficult nut to crack in a organisation that must operate through consensus. Imperfect though it may be, the IMO has done much good in it’s 60 year existence but seafarer competency may be beyond its reach.

The MSC included competency standards in its mandated reviews to be carried out by the STW subcommittee headed by the Jamaica Maritime Authority’s Admiral Peter Brady, but what does it actually mean? And how do manning agents and shipowners avoid liability for lack of competence?

As with other STCW requirements, competency standards will be interpreted at the local level by national administrations who decide what the ‘standards’ mean, which makes ‘standards’ a sort of Tweedledum-Tweedledee word that means what one wants it to mean.

Competency is the ability to carry out a set task to a set standard safely. It isn’t whether or not one can successfully pass a written or oral examination, but on whether one can do the job safely.

Possession of a certificate does not imply competency – the ability to carry out a task to a set standard safely. Even if one is competent at the moment one receives the certificate, it doesn’t mean one is still competent six months or a year later. And completing a refresher course onshore doesn’t mean one is competent onboard ship. Even those firms in the business of providing training at onshore facilities and various training products agree as much.

What matters is competency assessment, and that can only be done in the place of work, where the task is being carried out. One only has to consider The Case Of The Silent Assassin in which the officers, and the men who died, were appropriately certificated but incompetent when it came to enclosed space entry and rescue procedures. It was a pretty harsh form of informal assessment and fatal to two seafarers. Therein lies the problem for the industry. If a seafarer is assessed on board for a task he is already carrying out, and found to be less than competent, then there is a liability issue if that seafarer is killed or injured or if the ship comes to grief. Anyone familiar with maritime accident reports knows that most fatalities occur because either the victim, or someone else onboard, is not competent to do the task they are set and the truth is that too many companies simply don’t want to know whether or not those who man their ships are competent or not because then they might become legally liable for knowingly putting incompetent seafarers in way of danger. Until that issue is resolved it is unlikely that workplace competency assessment will gain much of a foothold in the maritime industry. The MSC review will cover a lot of territory: ECDIS familiarisation and other relatively recent technologies, the special circumstances of short sea shipping and the offshore industry, LNG training and the introduction of mandatory alcohol limits during watchkeeping and other shipboard duties, all of which is much needed and welcome. It implicitly recognises the danger of already questionable ‘standards’ being further corroded as a result of the current manning shortages and says one of the aims of the review is to “ ensure that existing standards are not down?scaled and do not amend the articles of the Convention”.

Underlying all those fine efforts, of course, is a notional level of competency. Is the IMO’s MSC up to the challenge of introducing effective, onboard, assessment of competency? We’ll have to wait and see, but holding your breath is not recommended.