Where have the on-board training slots gone?

Aug 27, 2012, 2:59PM EST
Attempts to reduce the widening gap between the number passing out of the training institutes and the training berths available on board have yet to yield results

As a result of the maritime training being thrown open to the private sector, the gap between the total number of cadets being churned out by these private training academies and the on-board training berths available has been widening. In order to take stock of the situation, a panel discussion was held under the aegis of the Company of Master Mariners of India (CMMI) recently that evoke a lot of interests with several proposals being put forth.  

It was noted that presently the situation is distressing with only a fraction of those passing out of the institutes manage to get training berths on onboard. The others unfortunately end up not ever realizing their dream of a sea career after having spent a fortune on get trained in an institute.

The panel discussion centered on achieving the government’s objective as stated by A. S. Vasan the Union Minister of Shipping, Government of India - that the percentage of Indian seafarers comprising six percent of the global seafaring community should be enhanced to 12 percent by 2015. This primarily means finding more training berths. It was noted that there were at least 8,000 to 9,000 excess cadets and marine engineers compared to the training slots available on the vessels. The need to rectify the imbalance was imperative.     

Capt Shyam Jairam, representing Maritime Association of Shipowners, Shipmanagers & Agents (MASSA) with membership of about 30 members observed that they were mute spectators seeing the surplus of trainee cadets being generated by the institutes. “MASSA members absorb 1200 deck trainees and 800 rating trainees every year. Our manning and management companies have come up with plans to increase the number of training slots, but these are short term measures. Whatever other measures we have in mind will not help to correct the imbalance.”

The number of applicants joining the institutes for making a sea career has gone down and finding jobs for trainee cadets is becoming more and more difficult according to Capt R. S. Sidhu of T.S. Rahaman who represents the maritime training institutes. He made a fervent appeal to the institutes asking them help raise the bar and concentrate on producing proper junior officers.

Capt T. D. Hazari, Head of Training and Development of Doehle Danautic pointed out that in 2005 Japan offered India a training ship but it could carry very little cargo. It was learnt that at most the ship could be used only on the coast. After much interaction it was observed that even though Shipping Corporation of India agreed to take 50 percent of the berths and the remaining being shared between the Indian National Shipowners’ Association and other manning associations, the plan had to be dropped as the bunker cost was found to be too high. Even though Mumbai port had agreed to make a berth available free of cost, it was estimated that training cost would sky rocket.   

There was much banter, shocking revelations besides allegations and pleas. There were suggestions for taking drastic measures like trimming the intake to match the training slots available. Some even suggested penalizing institutes which indulged in misleading aspirants with false hope and duping them. 

The chairman of the panel Capt M. M. Saggi, Nautical Adviser to the Government of India in his summation informed that the directorate is looking at curtailing the intake of candidates by training institutes and was aware of the critical situation and considering various options.

He felt that those passing out or in the pipeline should be given their due weightage. The directorate was pursuing the matter with foreign ship owners through the two manning and ship management associations, FOSMA and MASSA for more on-board training berths.   

Since 92 percent of India’s international trade was being carried by foreign ships and only 8 percent on Indian bottoms, the government was seeing the best way leverage this situation for acquiring more slots. “We are looking to exploiting this to our advantage by prevailing on the foreign ship owners to make extra training berths available to Indian cadets without affecting our commercial interests,” Capt Saggi said.

The main reason for declining the training ship offered by Japan he said was that it would have cost each cadet anywhere between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000 per month. Besides, the training ship did not have much cargo space or be involved in cargo handling activity or provide the environment associated with a trading ship and the pressure of handling cargo.

“But then what kind of training would this ship would have provided Capt Saggi wondered. If this kind of situation is acceptable cadets could very well be trained on the passenger ships that ply between the Indian peninsula and the Andaman Island. During the off-season a much larger number of berths were available that could accommodate more cadets.

Taking harsh measures like cutting down on the intake was not considered a good option as the institutes had invested in creating the necessary infrastructure with the objective of using it optimally.

On the whole the discussions being inconclusive it is certain that the Union shipping minister will have to be content with a reduced number of seafarers in time to come.


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