Sunday, 20 July 2014

Grooming of the Merchant Navy Cadets -1

It is the year 2014. Deck and Engine Cadets who are joining the Merchant Navy (MN) today – from any country – are expected to be the MN officers in charge of the ‘watches’ covering ship’s Navigation, Cargo work, Engineering, Maintenance & Port Executive Work Watches anytime from 2018 – in some cases it may happen even earlier! Their decisions and actions while at work having millions or even billions of dollars-worth of stakes if they make mistakes.

While these MN Cadets get the necessary grooming, mentoring, training, education as well as practical experience during their journeys to build their careers at sea they also simultaneously build a sea-sense of their own that is most important to be associated with the other factors. The importance of this factor glaringly came to forth by way of the bad examples of some run-away-ship Captains involved in the MN related accidents during the last few years. How could there be Ship Captains who leave behind their colleagues and passengers and flee themselves? The answer to that is in a question about how they could be the ship-Captains without this basic sea-sense in the first place!!

The irony in the MN is that, those who ‘rule’ the way the MN ships are operated are permanently sitting on shores far detached from having the sea-sense that is mentioned above. Over the decades as the technology took practically a full control of the procedural aspects of the MN ships, if not of the ship handling activities themselves, the persons on-the-scene were removed from having much of a say in how the rules and regulations were made or the procedures were designed. Being adaptable to the varying demands, regulations, weathers, personalities, cargoes and commercial conditions remains an important part of the daily challenges in the lives of the MN ship’s officers who are actually handling and running the MN ships. They do so as per the commercial engagements entered into by their shore based counterparts, the commercial agreements having references to the governing rules and regulations.

While the MN Cadets of the yester-years were groomed under strict militaristic disciplines, today’s MN Cadets are often left to be groomed / shaped by their own exposures to the commercial realities and the vast knowledge-pool available to them so easily. They may not receive it from their ‘seniors’ on board as no one practically has any free time on board to groom Cadets except for a very few cases of exceptions. What these Cadets need is sharing of experiences in physically–emotionally–psychologically adapting to the tough demands of the MN ships during their global transportation voyages, simultaneously building the much needed sea-sense which is so vital.

When a MN cadet starts his/her career he/she is covered by the international standards of training and watch-keeping set out by IMO – the central MN related regulatory body formed by the UN. While all the huge work the IMO does very capably by centrally regulating the MN ship operations to ensure maritime safety, security and efficiency around the globe, the ‘grooming’ of the future MN officers cannot occur by mere availing of the set of standards & regulations alone. The grooming that is needed to transform a civilian teenager boy or girl into a fine MN officer of the seas. These officers are then to line up to take command of the ship as a whole or her engine room and to take the ships around the globe safely and efficiently no matter what the sea-weather & piracy or port conditions may be.

In the coming weeks let us look at how the grooming of these MN Cadets can really be done!

Safe sailings!

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