The Merchant Navy Training board has consistently raised the standards of seafarer training in the UK for many years – now the time is right to do so overseas.
UK seafarers are acknowledged globally as being the world’s best trained, particularly where safety practices are concerned.
This is thanks, in no small part, to the work of the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) and the high standards we are responsible for setting.
However, the disparity between the calibre of UK training and that found abroad – particularly in nations from where the majority of the world’s seafarers hail – demonstrates the lack of standardisation in seafarer training globally.
What is concerning is that this lack of common standards has led to a disjointed view of what constitutes safe working practices onboard vessels.
The unsafe actions of one seafarer may endanger the whole crew – but that person may not know any better.
We can mitigate this risk by ensuring, from day one of their sea-going career, every seafarer has a common understanding of what is acceptable – and this comes from quality education and training.
This is the challenge the MNTB perceives and, in 2019 we plan to extend our service around the globe to help raise standards at seafarer training centres worldwide.
The MNTB has a national and international reputation for assuring quality cadet training programmes, supported by training record books and course criteria for the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
We are an independent body supported by all aspects of the industry, including employers; unions, education centres, training providers and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA).
One of the MNTB’s main aims is to ensure seafarers receive the best education from the best centres, to ensure they are equipped for a global market, and are able to develop, personally and professionally, throughout the rest of their careers.
Like any other organisation, however, the MNTB must evolve its offering to ensure it continues to meet the needs of seafarer training.
During 2018, we launched our centre recognition scheme, which awards an MNTB quality mark to gold – standard training centres in the UK and abroad.
Awardees can use this quality mark to demonstrate the fact they have met MNTB’s strict review criteria and to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
This is in addition to our course recognition service, which has been available to maritime colleges and training providers in the UK, Ireland and the Philippines for the past few years.
Clyde Training Solutions (Glasgow) and Maritime Skills Academy (Dover) helped us pilot the centre recognition scheme and last year became the first two seafarer training centres to officially receive the MNTB quality mark.
The centre recognition service aims to improve seafarer training standards through its rigorous process. This includes recognising where good practice exists and identifying how those who seek to achieve good practice can be supported in revising their standards.
We see no reason why it should be offered only to training centres within the UK and have been approached by a number of global companies looking to work with the MNTB to be recognised for gold-standard training.
While the MNTB is known for being a UK-focused organisation, we have made progress in taking our services overseas.
In doing so, we are helping professionalise and standardise seafarer training internationally, which will result in safer working practices onboard the global fleet.
UK seafarers do not only work in UK waters; they sail globally and that means working with international seafarers – The standards of international seafarer training, however, are very hit and miss.
We know this because there have been many complaints from UK cadets that there are unsafe practices being carried out on foreign vessels that could potentially put the crew at risk.
Safety is a culture – it needs to be addressed right from the start of training so that seafarers have the tools to conduct themselves safely at work and to lead by example onboard their vessel.
We want to recognise and reward the excellent standards of training delivered to seafarers, both nationally and internationally.
The MNTB is well positioned to undertake this mission – and given our solid track record in the UK - we are one of very few organisations worldwide that has the requisite know-how and experience to succeed.
Standards are an effective way to reward best practice, motivate improvement and aid regulation – all of which are currently lacking at many seafarer training centres around the world.
A visible seal of quality from an internationally recognised organisation such as the MNTB can be an important differentiator in what is a highly competitive marketplace.
Would-be seafarers benefit because MNTB recognition provides certainty that they will receive quality education at a training centre or on an individual course. Why study anywhere other than a centre that has been awarded MNTB’s quality mark?
By officially recognising best-in-class performance, the MNTB can also stimulate improvements at training centres that aspire to meet our standards - and can advise on how this can be done.
Our thorough, independent audit process generates valuable feedback for training centres that apply for recognition – even if they don’t quite meet our standards, the findings of our audit can offer a comprehensive roadmap of where they need to improve and how.
We firmly believe that the MNTB has a role to play on a global stage in raising the standard of seafarer education - and 2019 will be a very important year for us in achieving this ambition.
Kathryn Neilson, Director of the Merchant Navy Training Board