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Technical Cooperation in Maritime Education and Training

IAMU General Assembly

October 15, 2010

IAMU General Assembly
15 October 2010
Technical Cooperation in Maritime Education and Training
Keynote address by Efthimios E. Mitropoulos
Secretary-General, International Maritime Organization
 
President of the Korea Maritime University and President of IAMU, Mayor of the City of Busan, Chair of IAMU, Members of the IAMU International Executive Board, [Representatives and students of the IAMU Member Institutes,] Presidents, Rectors, Professors, students, media representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
 
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today at the 11th General Assembly of IAMU as it is my firm belief that education, training and learning hold the key to a successful future in every walk of life and the maritime sector is certainly no exception to this.
 
As a service industry, shipping has come to value its human resources every bit as highly as its technical and practical excellence. Indeed, in many ways, the human element at sea has become the critical element in ensuring safe, secure, clean and efficient operations. It is only feasible to secure, and to preserve, properly qualified human resources for the maritime industries through effective education and training – based on scientific and academic rigor; the development of a clear linkage between practical skills and management techniques; and an unerring focus on quality.
 
The International Association of Maritime Universities was inaugurated a little over a decade ago by just seven universities, which shared a recognition of the significance of maritime education and training – particularly in shipping, the global character of which feeds, nurtures and encourages any initiative at the international level. It is a testimony to the foresight of those founding institutions that, today, IAMU’s membership has risen to more than 50 and the Association has secured observer status at IMO, where its contribution is valued and respected.
 
This year has been a special one in the world of maritime training, one which will always be associated with the adoption of historic amendments to the STCW Convention and Code – instruments that together set the international benchmark for the training and education of seafarers. In a year that has been devoted to raising the profile of, and improving conditions for, seafarers, the adoption of the amendments I just mentioned represents the pinnacle of IMO’s regulatory work in this context.
 
Let me take this opportunity to reiterate some of those amendments’ more salient points. They were adopted at a Diplomatic Conference held under the auspices of IMO in Manila in June.  Appropriately, they have collectively been named as “The Manila Amendments” and are set to enter into force on 1 January 2012 under the tacit acceptance procedure enshrined in the STCW Convention. Their purpose is to bring the parent instruments up to date with developments since they were initially adopted in 1978 and further revised in 1995; and to enable them to address issues that are anticipated to emerge in the foreseeable future.
 
They include numerous important changes to each chapter of the Convention and Code, some of which I would like to mention because of their significance in shaping the short- to medium-term education and training of seafarers and their respective careers at sea.  Those I have in mind are:
 
• updating of competence requirements for personnel serving on board all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas tankers;
• new requirements relating to training in modern technology, such as electronic charts and information systems; 
• new training and certification requirements for electro-technical officers;
• new training guidance for personnel operating dynamic positioning systems;
• new training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar waters;
• new requirements for marine environmental awareness training and training in leadership and teamwork;
• the introduction of modern training methodologies, including distance learning and web-based learning;
• new requirements for security training, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained to cope if their ship comes under attack by pirates;
• new certification requirements for able seafarers;
• improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and to strengthen the evaluation process; and
• revised requirements on hours of work and rest and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol abuse, as well  as updated standards relating to medical fitness for seafarers.
 
In addition, the Conference adopted a host of resolutions covering a wide range of topics, such as:
• the verification of certificates of competency and endorsements;
• standards of training and certification and ships’ manning levels;
• the promotion of technical knowledge, skills and professionalism of seafarers;
• the development of guidelines to implement international standards on medical fitness for seafarers;
• the revision of existing model courses published by IMO and the development of new model courses;
• the promotion of technical co-operation;
• measures to ensure the competency of masters and officers of ships operating in polar waters;
• attracting new entrants to, and retaining seafarers in, the maritime profession;
• accommodation for trainees; and
• the promotion of the participation of women in the maritime industry.
 
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The adoption of the revised STCW Convention and Code brought to a successful conclusion the concerted effort undertaken, over a four-year period, by various parties with an interest in seafarer training and the shipping industry at large – from Government and industry, dedicated seafarer representative bodies, maritime training institutions and many other interested organizations.
 
The immediate task now at hand is to promulgate the standards of maritime excellence the Manila Amendments embody among those working at the sharp end of the industry and to promote their proper implementation and enforcement.  Enacting national legislation and introducing enabling measures in maritime administrations will be key elements of this, but there will obviously also be major ramifications for training establishments and centres of further education.
 
As I said at the close of the Conference – and I think this is particularly pertinent to the overall theme of your meeting today, that is “Technical Cooperation in Maritime Education and Training” – the successful adoption of the amendments and the associated Conference resolutions should mark the beginning of strenuous efforts to achieve three distinct but related goals: first, as I just mentioned, to commence, at the earliest possible opportunity, work to translate the revised STCW requirements into national regulations – with the aim of expediting their implementation; second, to deliver any technical assistance required through various avenues and channels, most importantly through IMO’s Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme – with the aim of familiarizing STCW Parties with the revised requirements and to provide them and training institutions concerned with useful technical advice on the revised Convention and Code as a whole; and, third, to initiate action, as may be necessary, to ensure the full and effective implementation and rigorous enforcement of the revised instruments when the amendments come into force on 1 January 2012 as expected.
 
I have stressed, on many occasions in the past, the crucial role that seafarers play in the smooth running of international trade and the overall performance of the global economy.  The Manila Conference was put at the epicentre of the highlights of this year, which IMO has designated as the “Year of the Seafarer”.  One aim, when choosing the theme, was to provide the maritime community with an opportunity to pay tribute to seafarers from all over the world for their unique contribution to society and in recognition of the vital part they play in the facilitation of global trade in a hazardous environment.
 
The amendments adopted in Manila are of supreme relevance to seafarers, covering, as they do, not only their training and certification but also having an impact on how they undertake a broad range of professional duties on board – both at sea and in ports. They will enable us – and you, as the specialists in maritime education – to continue to respond satisfactorily, for the foreseeable future, to changing conditions and circumstances affecting the professional lives of seafarers.
 
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Ladies and gentlemen, shipping is able to boast a history and a tradition that few other industries can match. Based on a solid foundation of quality education and training, seafarers hand down to one another a legacy of pride in a job well done; of attention to detail; and of skills diligently learned and painstakingly applied, in short, of seamanship.
 
Despite this, however, it is widely predicted that, unless something is done rapidly, shipping will soon face a manpower crisis; there simply will not be enough properly qualified officers to run a world fleet that continues to increase in size (both in numbers and tonnage). The evidence clearly suggests that, today, not enough young people seem to find seafaring an attractive and appealing career. This leads to a worrying shortage of new, good entrants, which the industry cannot afford to ignore. Against such a backdrop, the part played by training establishments, such as those affiliated to IAMU, simply cannot be overstated.
 
No doubt the unique hazards confronting seafarers – natural ones, of course, but also pirate attacks, unwarranted detention, abandonment in foreign ports and denial of shore leave, to mention a few – serve to discourage some youngsters who are contemplating a career at sea. But, despite the numerical decline in officer-level entrants, nothing, I believe, can take away from shipping what an exciting, rewarding and fulfilling career it can provide – a career that can take people almost anywhere, both in geographical terms and in terms of the sort of work they may finally find themselves doing.
 
The educational arm of the shipping community, as represented by IAMU, can act as a window on the wider maritime world. You have the ability to help potential recruits see a bright vista, a world of opportunity – in short, a viable and attractive career. So, I urge you to help to spread the word.
 
One very valuable tool in your armoury is the fact that seafaring is not only a satisfying and worthwhile career choice in itself, it is also a passport to a huge variety of related jobs ashore for which experience at sea will make one eminently qualified. The many dedicated professional seafarers who, having served their early years at sea, now hold positions as managers and superintendents in shipping companies, as maritime pilots, VTS and rescue coordination centre operators, as advisers to Ministers and executives in shipping-related activities such as insurance companies and classification societies, and, indeed, as professors and teachers at maritime academies and colleges, are shining examples of what can be achieved.
 
Irrespective of the adversities confronting the maritime profession (and “criminalization” of innocent seafarers is one of the most prominent among those), there now seems to be a greater awareness that, after a seagoing career in a responsible and demanding job, there are many opportunities ashore, in related industries, that rely on the skills and knowledge of those with seafaring expertise and I think this is not only a cause for encouragement but also a significant positive factor in the quest to attract more young people into the industry.
 
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Ladies and gentlemen, to conclude: today, more than ever, seafaring is a job that demands highly trained and qualified personnel – people who have the courage, strength and determination to spend long periods of time away from home; and the professional competence and wherewithal to respond to any of the hazards that the sea and the weather might throw at them.  It should come as no surprise, therefore, that their high qualities, professionalism and dedication should have gained due recognition by the Manila Conference, when it decided to declare the 25th of June each year as the “Day of the Seafarer” – one that we should all mark in our diaries and celebrate and promote in every way we can to pay tribute to the unsung heroes of the unsung industry we all serve.
Sustaining and developing a high-quality manpower resource is vital for the industry’s future and the STCW Convention and Code, revised as the Manila Conference was able to do, will provide a solid platform for doing so in the years ahead.
 
Modern ships are designed and built to the highest technical standards. The emphasis is now, therefore, increasingly on ensuring that standards of manning and operation are equally high, and it falls more and more to people like you, the major providers of maritime training and education, to play a central, not a peripheral, role. It is a challenge to which I am sure you will rise – and I thank and congratulate you, and IAMU as a whole, for that.
 
Thank you.
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