Saturday, June 11, 2011

IS IT ANY WONDER

Recently NAUTICAL LOG has been reading a rather good blog called Marine Café Blog which covers the maritime world mainly from the perspective of Filipino seafarers.  NAUTICAL LOG has also been commenting regularly on their Posts and there have been excellent discussions.  However some commenter's seem reluctant to describe their professional qualifications while claiming to be instructors, teachers et cetera.  Our view on that point is clear and in our profile is quite detailed so that readers may know our background when reading Posts, comments and how we acquired the opinions held.  Another point that really irritates us is bringing attention to ethnic differences and using that as a reason or excuse for substandard performance, discipline issues and judgements on ability.  The term Americans use is "playing the Race Card" and it is really quite a good description.  By playing the race card that persons expressed opinion is lowered, and often brushed aside to the point of being ignored.  So NAUTICAL LOG has a suggestion on how to use it effectively - DON'T.


This discussion focuses on the training and behaviour of Filipino seafarers because Marine Café Blog addresses that issue and their maritime facilities.  However it applies equally well to any nation supplying crews to wiorld shipping.  Filipinos can attend The John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University at Arevolo, Bacolo, Molo, and Puerto Del Mar.  There is PNTC Colleges, Manila also advertised in Marine Café Blog.  No doubt there are many more, feel free to let us know about them.   Also most ships in the international maritime world have at least some Filipino seafarers and very many have full Filipino crews.


Readers may have noted that NAUTICAL LOG always uses the term seafarers and not seamen that is where the whole problem lies when merchant shipping companies are looking to mann their fleets - there is a great difference between these terms.


When NAUTICAL LOG started his career in 1953 as a Deck Apprentice, there were usually four of us, sometimes six and we all completed four years as trainee Deck Officers from the bilges to the Bridge.  We did clean those bilges and did every shipboard job under the Bosun, who for the non-seafaring readers is the Deck Department foreman and gets his orders from the Chief Officer each morning at 0700.  We Deck Apprentices also did Bridge Watchs thus getting trained by the Watchofficers in all the Administration, Navigation, Ship Handling, Cargo Operations, Ship Maintenance, Rules and Regulations to be a Watchofficer and Master of a ship one day ourselves.  Since there were not enough hours in a day for all this we Deck Apprentices did not get too much sleep - we also did not get too much pay - $21.00 a month going up to $30.00 my final year as a Third Officer without a "Certificate of Competency" (a brevet promotion) lpus $1200.00 on completion of Indentures.  That promotion to Officer working only 12 hour days was an absolute luxury plus one had a private cabin kept in good shape by a Catering Department Steward.


After the four years were completed there was schooling to qualify for a government "Certificate of Competency" as Second Officer, then on to Chief Officer, finally Master Foreign-Going.  Between each of these upgrades one had to acquire two years sea time, that is actually in a ship underway, no travel or leave time was counted.  This totalled another four years for a grand total of eight years but in fact it usually took about ten years.  NAUTICAL LOG not being the best of students (far too much partying to be truthful) and a nervous written examination taker - orals were no problem (always could talk my way in and out of trouble!!) - took twelve years but got there in the end.


A friend of mine in Europe also a retired Master writes manuals required by the IMO for shipping companies, he is a regular reader of this Blog and his opinions are highly valued.  We quote him:


"I  not surprised about your comments on the training and ability of seafarers nowadays.  It is that there are no more "seamen" in the true sense of the word.  .............a seaman is someone who starts in the bilges as we did as Apprentices and works his way up gathering at every step experience that will eventually transform him into a "seaman", whether he stays as a Rating or goes on to be an Officer. .........that kind of training no longer exists..........seafarers they may be but not seamen........it is not their fault.  In my last company we engaged Filipinos, they would arrive with a suitcase full of certificates but no basic seamanship".


This same retired Master is producing operating manuals to comply with the requirements of the IMO and its mountainous paperwork, the only thing that matters in modern shipping circles.  Recently he finished one only to be sent copies of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 the contents of which have to be incorporated from 2012 onwards.  This means a huge rewrite and is typical of what happens these days to comply with "Declaration of Maritime Labour Compliance" - the paperwork never ends and is never fully effective in practice.


By supplying crews for international shipping the Government of the Philippines has a duty to its citizens, who are going to seek employment as seafarers, to train them in necessary skills through their maritime colleges properly supervised by Government maritime organizations, fairly and honourably.  It is not sufficient just to have schools with students in fancy naval type uniforms parading around impressively.  These students must be trained in needed skills that are reflected by the certificate issued.  Not paper qualifications that reveal after they start work on board a vessel they are just that - paper with no skills to qualify as seamen. 


This results in a dishonourable presentation by the employee to an employer for positions as seafarers.  Believe me this practice and the crew contractors behaviour is well known, one day the shipping companies will throw overboard the whole lot as soon as they find something cheaper and less problematic.  They might even wake up and go back to an Apprenticeship system, coupled with the poor education level of graduates of the Philippine school system that would rule them out as Officers entirely.  Remember also there is an in country two-tier safety system which does not reflect well on the Philippines.  The Philippine Government has an extremely long way to go in addressing this training, supervising and manning issue.  So NAUTICAL LOG would draw your attention to the recent incredible grounding of the MS Oliva on Tristan da Cunha and the nationality of its crewmembers.


Finally if you do not believe that other countries can find and train persons as seafarers to become seamen, then displace and replace you, then read up on this Indian Merchant Navy vessel operating from Indian ports.




MV AMET Majesty

Indian seamen manned British Merchant Navy ships of every type for generations and excellent seamen they were as NAUTICAL LOG knows firsthand from serving with them. 



Good Watch.

Please remember the seafarers held captive by pirates off Somalia.  It is a serious humanitarian issue for the United Nations to address now.  NAUTICAL LOG has just about written off the IMO as being capable of doing anything.  Besides they will be heading off to Greece for vacation - if not already there.

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