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Maritime Skills Commission recommends course modernisation and funding overhaul for cadets in new report, Helen Kelly writes
The Maritime Skills Commission (MSC) has released its Seafarer Cadet Review Report, which recommends that the government must overhaul funding for seafarer training and modernise courses if UK seafarers are to remain competitive in the global shipping sector.
Although the training offered in the UK is seen as good by the rest of the world, it is becoming outdated. That has led to a growing gap between skills requirements for new officers and the education received by cadets. Technological change in shipping will increase this skills gap over the next 10-15 years, according to the report.
Employment of UK officers is at a crossroads. Rapid change is needed in attracting students into the profession, in changing course content to align with present and future sector needs, and in providing the quality education which students deserve.
Rapidly evolving officer training will provide an opportunity for the UK to supply officers with differentiated leadership and technical skills. This will create well-paid employment, with the knock-on benefits to the UK economy.
Without these changes, the employment of UK officers will continue to decline, and others will fill the demand, the report warns.
Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) chief executive and chair of the working group Brian Johnson said: 'As the international shipping world looks to make some huge changes over the coming decades, UK officers will play an increasingly important role in managing that transition. This report outlines how the training that UK officers receive at the start of their careers will adapt to fully equip them to take on this leadership.'
The report recognises that the training regime of UK officers has been slow to change and that hard decisions will need to be made. The final recommendation of the group was to create the necessary environment for change through improvements at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB).
Other recommendations include:
- Recognise that the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) is a minimum acceptable international standard of education for seafarers
- Evolve course content to reflect the increasing need for greater technical agility and leadership skills, whilst maintaining a solid foundation in seafaring skills
- Move further in the direction of honours (i.e. level 6) degrees
- Seafaring officer training should be fully government funded and students must have choice about which college and course they attend
- Improve the quality of the learning and experience through improved access to modern electronic equipment, simulators and blended learning tools
- Re-think the traditional emphasis on 'time spent' as an indicator of learning and replacing with objective measures
- Overhaul the experience of cadets during sea time. Making sure that shipping companies fulfil their obligations fully, that colleges continue to provide mentoring, and that experience onboard is properly blended with simulator experience to create a rich and consistent experience base
Maritime UK chair Sarah Kenny said: 'The UK has a global reputation for its maritime education and training. To maintain that position, we must constantly assess our position and remain one step ahead. I commend the Commission for its leadership and look forward to working with the sector to implement its recommendations.'
Maritime Minister Robert Courts also commented on the release of the report: 'Britain has long been a leader in maritime and as we move into a world of greater innovation and automation, we must ensure that our seafarers have the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century. The report sets out how we can keep our Merchant Navy at the forefront of maritime innovation for years to come.'
The Maritime Skills Commission
The Maritime Skills Commission (MSC) was set up in 2020 by the Department for Transport working with Maritime UK, as part of the government's Maritime 2050 strategy. Its role is to ensure a pipeline of talented people to serve all parts of the industry, covering shipping, ports, leisure marine, engineering, science and professional services.
The MSC's review was overseen by a working group of commissioners, including Nautilus International general secretary Mark Dickinson, and chaired by Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Brian Johnson.
The MSC considered evidence from Lloyds Register, covering the likely trajectory of technology transformation in shipping. It also received submissions from the Department for Transport covering the current funding mechanisms for cadet training, alongside a survey of current cadets through Nautilus International.