On March 30—Day 2 of Marine Log’s TTB 2022 conference for the tug, towboat and barge industry—three expert panelists will discuss ways in which the tug, towboat and barge industry can better
In an effort to further campus efforts toward building a thriving, equitable and ecologically just world, Maine Maritime Academy (MMA) recently became a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability
Plans for another major international maritime event have been disrupted by the coronavirus. In the face of increasing infection rates, driven by the Omicron variant, Nor-Shipping has taken the decision to postpone
This Great Lakes annual issue looks at ports and shipping in the area, in addition to maritime education centers. Other topics include ferry design innovations, scrubber technology, and more.
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OCTOBER 5, 2016 —The Department of Transportation has selected the Logistics Management Institute (LMI) to perform an independent cultural assessment of the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), Kings Point, NY. The
One of the biggest concerns in shipping is finding and retaining qualified mariners. This is further exacerbated by the downturns in the oil and bulker markets, where vessels are being laid up or sold for scrap, leaving crews to find work where they can, possibly outside of the industry. Even before these mariners actually get their jobs, there is a plethora of regulatory barriers to obtain the original Certificate of Competency for officers, and even numerous hoops to jump through for the unlicensed as well. The 2010 Manilla Amendments to the STCW and the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006 have created further requirements than seen previously.
First and foremost a mariner must obtain a Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC). In the past, mariners background checks were conducted by the USCG. Now the TWIC card reduces the Coast Guard need to conduct said checks, since the TSA is doing so. An original TWIC costs $128.00 out of the prospective mariner’s pocket, before they even have credentials or a job. At this point we are going to focus solely on the U.S. Mariner. Although STCW has standardized much of the training, the implementation in different countries can be vast.
The second step, and sometimes the most difficult to complete is the mariner physical. One would think that it is as easy as walking in to your family doctor’s office, handing them the form, and doing the physical. Unfortunately many doctors are not equipped to deal with the more specific items such as the color vision test. If your doctor cannot do this, then going to the eye doctor may suffice, but call ahead. Yours truly has found that not all eye doctors’ offices have the requisite tests that the Coast Guard wants. It is best to go to an OSHA clinic or a doctor who conducts FAA pilot physicals. The entire medical requirements can be found in NVIC 01-14.
The next step is to have a drug screening. Not any drug screening is acceptable. This must be done in accordance with 46 CFR 16.220, filled out on the appropriate DOT form and submitted to a USCG approved testing facility. This can range from $50 to $150 depending on your location. Many civil service drug tests do not count for the USCG requirements.
With the addition of an entry level rating application and the fees totaling $140 for MMC issuance and evaluation, a mariner is ready to begin looking domestically for a job. At this point the prospective mariner has possibly spent well over $400 of their own money, just to get a credential to work on board. What can an Able Seafarer expect to make? The monthly minimum according to the ILO is $614.00. Now on a U.S.-flag vessel, this low of a wage likely will not be seen. But U.S. seafarers working on foreign-flag vessels may see this.
This, however, is only the beginning. Gone are the days where an Ordinary, or even a Mess man could work their way up the hawse pipe all the way to Captain, without having to take an inordinate amount of classes and jump through bureaucratic hoops.
The next rung on the ladder to advancement is the Rating Forming Part of a Navigational or Engineering Watch. In order to accomplish this the candidate must either have a Qualified Assessor sign off on certain competencies. This is in addition to the required six-month sea time. Another option for the seafarer is to complete a training program approved by the USCG that includes two months of sea time. The price of this course? Anywhere upwards of $1,000.00.
After that, one can either go to a Maritime University, Union Training Center, local Captains School or acquire the requisite sea time and have the competencies signed off on in order to become a vessel officer. Either way the process takes several years of hard work, study, and dedication. In the end it is all worth it. But once you reach officer level, the workload to upgrade that license increases substantially. We will also touch on customer specific requirements for the training of crew and officers.
When I graduated SUNY Maritime in 1997, the school had not fully implemented STCW 95 in to the curriculum yet. Therefore, after graduation, myself and many of my classmates stuck around for a few weeks to complete these requirements. Nowadays the STCW requirements are included in to the curriculum and the cadets graduate ready to sail. From there however, the price of ambition can be high as we will see. Once upon a time officers would sit for each and every upgrade to their license. Now, at least on the deck side, a Third Mate only needs sea time to upgrade to Second Mate. Engineers are far more complicated as the type of plant must be taken into consideration. Plus, I am a deck officer, so I’m a little biased on the subject.
Upon upgrading to Second Mate, this officer must now go through a large amount of training to upgrade to Chief Officer. If the prospective Chief Officer has someone willing to sign off on their Celestial Navigation and Advanced Navigation competency sheets, they have just shaved 80 hours off of their training. If not, then the prospect may be taking close to 450 hours of training. This can be up to 12 weeks of classroom time. The cost? Upwards of $10,000.00. This is before paying the Coast Guard their fees for examination, evaluation, and license issuance. If the mariner is lucky their employer or union sponsors them for this training. As a former union sailor, I had no out of pocket costs for this training. If the mariner does not have a sponsor for this training, the price tag is quite substantial, especially in a market such as this, where jobs are becoming more and more scarce.
One would be led to believe that there could not possibly be any more training required after this. This is not necessarily the case. Management officers are often required to have undergone the Medical Person in Charge training and Fast Rescue Boat. Of course there is also the specialty training that needs to be taken in certain trades such as Person in Charge for Tankers, or Liquid Carriers, Crowd control and Crisis Management for those working passenger vessels. Those officers working for Military Sealift Command may be required to take Small Arms, Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defense Officer (CBR-D), and a manner of other courses dependent on the vessel the mariner will sail upon. These extra courses can total another month or two of the mariner’s off time.
There is a fair proportion of the maritime industry with personnel who have never spent any significant time at sea. That in it of itself is not a problem; not all jobs require seagoing experience. For many however, the mariner is viewed as a tool and not a person who has hopes, dreams, and aspirations. These mariners spend on average six months a year on the ship. Some may trade coastwise, some international
If six months is spent on the ship and then contract requirements or career ambitions require further training, a mariner can only have a total of a few weeks off each vacation to spend with family, friends, and loved ones. I am not proposing that we reduce the educational requirements. I believe that we will see a downward trend in accidents across the board in the coming years due to increased training. But other measures need be considered by ship owners and managers in order to allow the mariners to have a fair amount of time off to do the things that life may require of them and get that much needed rest in order to return refreshed and ready for work. If we are to retain the talent that is required to crew the vessels, than we must remember their humanity.
An increasingly technical world – on board and ashore – and a growing mariner shortage have conspired to make maritime education and training more important than ever. The maritime world plays a significant role in moving the global economy and its goods, people and power. Educational institutions ensure those responsible for moving the world’s assets across the seven seas are well-qualified and prepared for their roles.
According to the latest BIMCO and ICS manpower report, the industry is facing a need for nearly 150,000 officers in the next decade and is already short 16,000 officers. The need to keep men and women sailing on their licenses for longer, and to recruit and train new officers, is growing steadily. In times of high demand, it is not unknown for the quality of a product to decrease. Yet that is an unconscionable risk for the maritime industry and its regulatory agencies. In fact, requirements to earn and upgrade a license are becoming more stringent, meaning that maritime educators must take additional steps to ensure the necessary requirements are met for all entering the fleet.
Additionally, vessels and operating procedures are becoming increasingly complicated; it is imperative that the men and women in charge of them and their cargo know what they are doing.
At SUNY Maritime College in New York City, the professional education and training department is responsible for giving professional mariners the continuing education they need to stay current and qualified under changing regulations. The program also trains students for limited tonnage licenses, playing an important role in the nation’s brownwater fleet.
For more than 100 years, SUNY Maritime has educated and trained merchant mariners, changing its curriculum, facilities and program offerings to align with the needs of the industry and U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Once again, the college is working to meet the growing mariner demand and to ensure that they succeed in their pursuit of Coast Guard mariner credentials.
The changes – among others – include offering additional courses to help licensed mariners maintain and update their skills as well as building facilities to train new mariners. The Manila amendments to the International Convention on Training, Certification and Watchkeeping standards, approved in 2010, go into effect at the end of the year. Safety is, and always will be, paramount to the maritime landscape, and the Manila amendments are designed to enhance crew safety at sea.
The amendments require, among other things, that all mariners take regular courses in basic training, renew their endorsements, and pass leadership courses to upgrade and maintain their credential.
No longer is experience at sea enough.
Basic training, which covers all the subjects most important to a vessel’s safety, still teaches basic firefighting, personal survival techniques, personal safety and social responsibility, and basic first aid. But now mariners will need to take the course, or a version of it, every five years in their professional careers.
After the end of the year, mariners entering the profession will take the original 40-hour course that has been taught for years and which introduces them to onboard safety operations. A 16-hour refresher course will be required for all who have not accrued 360 days of sea time in the past five years. An 8-hour course has been designed for mariners who have accrued the 360 days in a five-year period.
Nor is it enough anymore to earn lifeboatman, fast rescue boat or tankerman-PIC endorsements once and carry them for life. Once the Manila amendments go into effect, mariners must renew these qualifications to keep them.
These courses are being developed by a variety of players, including state maritime academies like SUNY Maritime.
Industry professionals, executives and thought-leaders have always prized safety over all else—safety of their crews, their vessels and, lastly, of their cargo. But tragedies like the sinking of the El Faro serve as an unfortunate reminder to all of us of how dangerous our industry can be and how necessary these skills are for the well-being of all who sail.
Safety practices and awareness are, of course, the most important thing that maritime educators impart to their students. This is a dangerous field and there are too many things that can go wrong.
But the Manila amendments have also recognized the increasing importance of a second set of skills related to teamwork and leadership, not only for those in leadership positions but for all officers onboard a vessel.
The essence of Coast Guard licensure training, at SUNY Maritime and elsewhere, is focused on developing mates and engineers who can work together and make decisions. The Coast Guard requires a regimented lifestyle and, though interpretations of that lifestyle vary, the focus is in developing an individual’s character and leadership skills so that the safety of the crew and vessel are paramount, rather than individual wants and needs.
But the regimental program at SUNY Maritime, in keeping with STCW standards, now includes leadership and teamworking training, while professional mariners can come to the campus to take the individual course. The course will focus on case studies, workload management, maritime conventions and regulations, and situational awareness to enhance decision making skills.
STCW standards also include training for those looking to advance into personnel management positions on both the deck and engine sides of vessel operations. More training has been added to ensure that officers can work together to, once again, ensure the vessel’s operations go as smoothly and safely as possible. The 35-hour course is required for all chief mates, masters, second engineers and chief engineers. It focuses on managing and training shipboard personnel, building situational awareness, and optimizing the use of engineering and bridge resources, among other things.
These requirements are the latest expansion of the necessary training for licensed mariners.
As the scope of training expands, so too have the resources and facilities at the academies which have grown and become more sophisticated. Ships and other vessels are increasingly technical and, though training ships and cadet commercial shipping assignments offer real-world experience onboard, it is unwise to allow a future mariner to sail without previous knowledge and virtual experience.
Simulation technology has become so advanced that cadets and mariners can gain experience with nearly any situation before ever stepping onboard. In a simulator, future mariners can practice standing watch anywhere in the world on a vessel powered by any form of fuel. As the global fleet changes from steam to diesel to, increasingly, natural gas in an effort to reduce pollution, these opportunities help professional mariners gain the experience they need to sail for a variety of companies and on a variety of vessels.
All of the maritime academies have expanded their simulation centers and systems in recent years. At SUNY Maritime, in the past year programs have built or expanded a tug and barge simulator and a full mission engine room simulator, which is enhanced with a 20 desktop station classroom to allow as many students to gain experience as possible.
These technologies, as complex as they are, can only produce data from which a student can learn. The equipment allows for—indeed it requires—a large amount of human interaction.
After all, the human element is by far the most important element of any vessel at any time and in any place. Interpreting the data onboard a simulator allows a professional mariner to correctly interpret the data coming from a vessel’s systems and act based on that data to ensure the safety of the vessel, cargo and crew.
Simulators and simulation systems are imperative for cadets and mariners to become familiar with the equipment onboard a vessel and that they will someday use and be responsible for. Simulation allows them to learn, within a controlled environment, what a navigational bridge or engine room is capable of and how to harness it to move a vessel safely from one port to another. Such training exercises allow students to make mistakes and learn from them without risking millions of dollars, environmental damage and lives.
Simulators at SUNY Maritime, as at the other academies, are nothing new. SUNY Maritime has several Class A bridge simulators, radar/ARPA ECDIS labs and a liquid-cargo handling simulator. As onboard technology and simulation programs become increasingly sophisticated, maintenance and software upgrades ensure that future mariners are getting the best experience possible and that which most closely mimics the world they will be sailing in after earning their Coast Guard licenses.
Partnerships with maritime companies help to ensure not only that new mariners are getting the appropriate training, but that current mariners can also return to maintain and upgrade their credentials. The ATB simulator at Maritime College has been supported and expanded through the generosity of Bouchard Transportation Company, Inc. The latest expansion includes two Class B stations to allow coordination between up to three tugs and a barge.
Mariners and cadets working in SUNY Maritime’s engine room simulator have the additional benefit of being able to train remotely through cloud technology. The simulator is no longer bound to the room in which it is confined, and trainees are able to spend additional time with the equipment. This capability, combined with digital textbooks, means that the possibilities for training and continuing education are endless.
These simulators and additional STCW courses help our nation’s mariners adapt to and thrive in an ever-changing industry. The same way that any other professional must adapt to the changes brought on by the information revolution and a changing world, so too must the mariner. Indeed, since the mariner travels the world and plays such a large role in the functioning of the global economy, the needs for continuing education and training are perhaps even more important than most other professions.