Taking Indian Marine Education to Next Level

India for long has been preferred as a major supplier of marine personnel to the global shipping industry for its competent, efficient and cost-effective approaches. Indian marine training & education sector, which is administrated by its regulatory administrative - the Director General of Shipping, credits a lot in providing more than 80,000 seafarers to the global shipping. Though this has been the result of the decades-old maritime education, training and examination system in India, there is a growing recognition that in the increasingly competitive workforce supply scenario in global shipping, excellence in maritime education and training is a necessity.

Indian Marine Education Perspective
India has been a seafaring country for centuries. India’s maritime history goes back to Indus Valley Civilisation when an active trade existed with Mesopotamia and Egypt. The long maritime tradition has helped India to develop an expertise in sailing and familiarity with maritime affairs. As now India owns merely 1 per cent of the global shipping fleet, but supplies more than 6 per cent of the total seafarers to the world fleet. Currently, there are about 82,000 India-born seafarers working on board ships globally.

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.

Maritime education and training sector in India is administrated by its maritime administration, the Directorate General of Shipping. Currently, there are more than 140 public and private maritime training institutes in the country offering pre-sea and post-sea training in various courses and streams, functioning under the centralised control and monitoring regime of the regulatory administrative. Apart from Indians, 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.

Challenges Ahead
Despite a high level of demand for Indian seafarers in the global maritime sector, there are many areas where Indian Marine Training & Education sector are observed to be lacking. Below are some deficiencies that Indian Marine Training & Education sector is in dearth of, should be taken care by the Indian regulatory administrative to uphold the nation’s interest in providing the future world-wide crew:
  • Dearth of technical traits due to the lack of specialised technological training facilities at most of the Indian maritime institutes, mainly because of the expensive training instruments.
  • On-board training has become a big obstacle for students looking for a career at sea with the backlog of those waiting to undergo the mandatory requirement running into a few thousands. Unlike other professional courses, students are stuck if they don’t get training berths on-board ships.
  • The large and rapidly growing backlog of trainee officers who have completed pre-sea courses but are unable to get training berths on board ships—a prerequisite for their certificates of competency in the entry grade—has been a matter of concern for the maritime administration.
  • Lack of research programmes, trained teachers and placement opportunity in Indian marine training institutes find many marine engineering students to achieve their marine engineering dream at stake.
  • Many private maritime institutes in India are lacking quality of marine training that affects the country’s quality of superior seafarers. Hence, the monitoring mechanisms for physical inspection of these institutes by the maritime administration largely depends by teams from the respective academic councils, predominantly comprising technical officers of the directorate. However, the growing number of maritime institutes and the increase in responsibility of the administration for the implementation of new international maritime convention requirements, aggravated by a shortage of technical officers, have affected the efficacy of the extant inspection regime, forcing the directorate to evolve alternative monitoring mechanisms to ensure the quality and uniformity required.
  • Over more than 80,000 maritime personnel 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. It says that every employee shall undergo different tiers of training programme during his service. Indian marine administrative should such directive to the marine education sector or planned strategy to tackle the situation.
  • Lack of or insufficient English language skill among the Indian seafarers in the international environment is a concern for the maritime administration.
Way Forward
As the entire maritime training & education sector passes through a difficult phase due to the prolonged recession in the international shipping, the time has come for the Indian’s maritime administration to commence major regulatory reforms for maritime training & education sector in keeping pace with the competitive requirements of global shipping. The regulatory administrative should be taken necessary steps to calibrate its seafaring supply-side mechanism in checking systematic deficiencies from Indian marine training & educations institutes. The approaches towards the reforms of marine education & training in India are detailing below:
  • Efforts to enforce training commitments by institutes and local fleet owners to raise shipboard training berths have not yielded the desired results. That will help the growing backlog of trainee officers who have completed pre-sea courses but are unable to get training berths on board ships.
  • Inspection processes a maritime training institute is required to undergo on a regular basis—scheduled inspections by academic councils, quality certifications by certifying bodies and grading of the institutes by rating agencies.
  • Ship classification societies (entities that verify ships for sea worthiness) authorised by India can henceforth offer their services for the inspection, gradation and certification of the maritime institutes.
  • Monitor to the mechanism of training institutes for looking to increase the nation’s share of global seafarers by tapping some portion of the shortage of personnel facing the shipping industry over the next five years.
  • Introduce grading mechanism of the various institutes broadly conducting similar training programmes that will benefit stake-holders—the prospective candidates, institutes and shipping companies—in addition to providing realistic inputs to enhance the monitoring and control mechanisms of the maritime administration.
  • 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.
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 will have taken concerted efforts to establish rigorous training & education standards to keep path with international level.

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.