‘The future scenario of Indian crew supply is still going to be bright’

Capt C L Dubey
Owner & Principal
Mumbai Maritime Training Institute (MMTI)
India has a long maritime tradition with the provision of expert mariners who are proficient in the skills in sea and expertise in sailing & familiarity with maritime affairs. Capt C L Dubey, Owner & Principal, Mumbai Maritime Training Institute (MMTI), details about the India’s potential strength & deficiency in supplying adequately trained manpower to the global shipping with an exclusive interview with Rakesh Roy. Excerpts…

From 80’s traditional shipping or sailing that never required a lot of equipment or a plethora of knowledge to today’s sophisticated vessels and associate equipment which require variety of skills amongst seafarers, what is the drastic evolution the marine training & education sector has witnessed in this period?
In 80’s, the Navigation / sailing had sextant very frequently used. The position of the vessel in the high seas was fixed mainly by sextant. Then the Sat Nav (Satellite Navigation) came, which was replaced by Global Positioning System (GPS). Presently, the sights are obsolete & position fixing of the vessel is mainly done by GPS on the high seas.

In the coastal regions, the radar is still principal means of position fixing. Lately the A.I.S., V.D.R., LRIT & BNWAS have been added up as the bridge equipment. The plethora of knowledge being imparted to the seafarers in their competency courses is slightly reduced. It is because of the magnetism, Gyro & Celestetion Navigation being reduced drastically in today’s syllabus.

India has been considered a major supplier of personnel to the global shipping industry. What are the strengths of the Indian seafarers? Why are they considered to be ‘good value for money’?
Indian seafarers are one of the most sought after seafarers in the world, because of their knowledge and hardworking abilities. Another very important factor which works in their favour is that they are available at relatively lower costs as compared to their western counterparts. The performance of Indian seafarers has culminated in India emerging as a major manpower supplying nation to the world shipping.

The strength of Indian seafarers is:
  • Good knowledge of English
  • Good professional knowledge & thus they have good value for money.
How does India fit into the world-wide scenario for future crew-supply, especially when Filipinos’ command on communicating using English and China aggressively promotes English in the country?
The future scenario of the Indian crew supply is still going to be bright but we have to further improve on attitude problem & English language. “POSITIVE ATTITUDE” topic should be dealt within all courses wherever possible. Crisis management is another topic to be stressed upon. Specific English language education programme compliance with the STCW standards for non-native English language speakers appears to be in need of a review and, if necessary, should be revised.

It is true that of late, countries with smaller populations and a more recent maritime tradition have out stripped us in the supply of personnel to the international shipping industry. Hence, the Indian Maritime Education System should be enhanced and lifted to its fullest potential to take marine training & education not only a world class education for the future seafarers but would also take Indian education at a global platform.

Apart from Indians, many foreign maritime students are upgrading their skills in Indian marine institutes. How do you look into this scenario?
Many foreign maritime students - from Africa, Middle East and West Asia countries - are upgrading their skills in Indian marine institutes due to the cost advantage in the country. As for as foreign maritime students are concerned, they basically do modular courses here in India. When they have started their pre-sea training from India, they are allowed for further examination here. This is the sector which can be changed in to opportunity by which Indian Govt. can earn good foreign exchange & Indian Maritime Institutes can get Foreign Maritime Students.

This will happen only after the foreign maritime students are allowed to do courses & appear for examinations here in India to get Indian C.O.C.

Currently, over 80,000 maritime officers working in the global shipping industry are from India, and they opt for receiving various training as the Maritime Agenda 2020 which states that all port personnel, including officers, should re-train them towards multi-skilling. How is the Indian marine training & education sector preparing to tackle the situation?
As per STCW’2010, most of the competency & proficiency certificates are to be upgraded every 5 years. The Indian Maritime Administration is already set the ball rolling & there is no doubt that by 1st January 2017 all the up gradation courses will be done by all Seafarers. And the Indian marine administrative – the Director General of Shipping – has already taken programmatic steps in giving directive to the marine education sector or planned strategy to tackle the situation.

Many private maritime institutes in India are lacking quality of marine training that affects the country’s quality of superior seafarers and lack of on-board ship training which is mandatory requirement for looking a career in sea. What is your take on it?
For superior seafarers, the competency courses are limited to only few institutes majority of which are sincere & serious about the training. It can not be denied that few private Maritime Institutes are compromising & giving more importance to financial gain & less importance to quality.

As far as onboard ship training is concerned. The Indian maritime administration has made sponsorship by shipping company as a compulsory requirement for admitting deck cadets for training. However, the shipping companies are not able to provide enough training berths and it is my personal opinion that RPSL No. is to be associated with specific No. of training berths for each company.

Though the maritime training sector passes through a difficult phase due to the prolonged recession in international shipping, what would be your wish-list in terms of India’s maritime administration reform in the regulatory processes for maritime training to keep pace with the competitive requirements of international shipping?

There is recession in the International & Indian shipping and hence the maritime training sector is also passing through a rough patch. But that will not go on forever. Indian maritime education, training and examination system which is a growing recognition that in the increasingly competitive workforce supply scenario in global shipping, excellence in maritime education and training is a necessity. Hence, the regulatory administrative should introduce major reforms in the regulatory processes for maritime training to keep pace with the competitive requirements of international shipping.

It’s my personal wish that Indian Maritime administration should allow foreign nationals to do the courses & examinations in India. After all, only when they come to the required standard & pass Govt. examinations, they will get the COC. Thus, there will be no dilution of standards. It is also my wish that Indian nationals having lower foreign COC’s should be allowed to do higher courses in India & get Indian COC after passing their examination.

What is the Way Forward?
India being an heir to an ancient maritime heritage has a special responsibility to maintain this tradition and provide excellence in the field of manpower. Unless issues relating to the sustainability of the quality of maritime education and training are sorted out, the goal of taking the Indian maritime education to the next level will remain a distant dream. To retain the lead, the Indian marine administrative has to take concerted efforts to establish rigorous training & education standards to keep path with international level.

At present maritime administration i.e., D G Shipping – Mr Gautam Chhaterji - is very active, hardworking & practical person who is quick in taking decisions majority of which are giving good results.