Director General of Shipping (DGS) Malini V Shankar is cracking the whip on maritime training institutes to improve the quality of training of thousands of cadets churned out every year and boost their ‘employability’.
Over 5,000 cadets, who have passed out of maritime training institutes, are not employed, as they were not able to complete the mandatory on-board ship training, according to the Shipping Ministry.
India has lost some of its sheen as a big supplier of quality manpower to the global shipping industry with China and the Philippines surging ahead — the former holding the top slot in the supply of officers and the latter for ratings.
India is the fifth largest supplier of officers after China, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine, according to the ‘Manpower Report 2015’, published by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and the Internal Chamber of Shipping (ICS). BIMCO is the world’s largest shipping body.
India does not agree with the BIMCO report on Indian seafarers.
High on Shankar’s agenda is to improve the examination system by going on-line and enlarging the scope of the exit examination to assess the competency or employability of trainees to check “false practices adopted by training institutes” such as awarding certificates without attending classes. The exit examination is currently conducted for general purpose ratings.
“We have to start thinking out of the box,” Shankar, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the Maharashtra cadre, told executives from maritime training institutes at a conference – the second in five months — organized by the DG (Shipping) in Mumbai to forge a consensus on reforming the training system.
While an exit examination is preferable, Shankar said “if not an examination, some methodology has to be adopted for assessing the quality of the output.”
The aim is to tap into a potential shortage of officers of some 92,000 by 2020 and 1,47,500 by 2025, as predicted by the BIMCO/ICS Manpower report.
‘Influenced’ by ‘tapal’
Explaining her “emphasis” on training, Shankar said that she was “influenced” by the first ‘tapal’ (letter) she read after taking charge as DG Shipping on December 19, 2016.
“This was a hand-written letter by a mother who had to sell her family land for ₹14-15 lakh to send her son for maritime training. In the letter, she said that her son doesn’t have a job after completing the course because the institute didn’t give proper training and wondered how she was going to get her money back,” Shankar said.
“I’m not here to close down training institutes or control them. Think of the many mothers and fathers who had to spend their entire life-\time earnings to send their sons for maritime training. It’s only fair to expect the training institutes to return the favour in full and not short change them,” she said.
India has some 134 maritime training institutes, of which 81 are conducting pre-sea training courses for trainee officers/ cadets and trainee ratings and 53 are post-sea training institutes which offer specialised programmes for full-fledged officers in both nautical and engineering streams.
The DG Shipping introduced a comprehensive inspection programme (CIP) to grade the training institutes based on various parameters including a 50 per cent weightage to placements.
Going by placement record
“Any candidate who wants to pursue a career at sea can go into the website of the DGS and have a better idea of which institute has a better placement record so that at least his interests are safeguarded,” explained a DGS official.
“There are two issues here, one is quality of training and second is opportunity provided to trainees. Until quality meets opportunity, desired results will not come,” he said.
However, the CIP has been fraught with challenges with shipping industry sources saying that “CIP and grading have become a commercial decision.”
Maritime training officials blame lack of adequate ship-board training slots for the malaise.
“Maritime education is not complete unless you get on-board training,” said an executive with one of the top training institutes in India.” It’s very difficult to get ship-board training berths due to over-capacity; training institutes are producing more than the ship-board training berths available,” he said.
“Without ship-board training, a cadet can’t sit for any competency exams and without a certificate of competency (CoC), you won’t get a job,” he said.