Short courses - Do we really need CoC's anymore?

11th November 2010, 22:53
With the number of short courses now becoming mandatory I find it hard to understand what is being taught in college now for the CoC's. Now we have ECDIS and Ship Security Officer courses as an add on.

The way STCW is going now is to delink all these topics from the CoC requirements. I thought that to gain a "Certificate of Competency" one had to be competent in all areas for the particular rank. If a person has to do add on courses to be able to safely navigate a ship, then how can we call a person competent when he passes his exams and the orals?

Rather than widening the college syllabus and ensuring higher standards are maintained whilst issuing certificates of competency the IMO I feel has gone the outsourcing way by separating these courses from the CoC requirements. The ECDIS course for example should be added to the nav instruments subject

Whilst many centers that conduct these courses are excellent in terms of quality of facilities and coaching offered, a lot many are appalling.

Give a few more years and some more accidents, I am sure that we will see more courses like "Gyro compasses" etc..

13th November 2010, 10:15
From a Chief mate I find this a strange question. How about all the other things we do? Stability, Seamanship etc.

The ECDIS course is no more than an ARPA course, a requirement to ensure we know what knobs we press. It could be inserted in the Certificate course, though, until recently, not even the MCA knew what it was. (if they do now).

It would make a lot more sense if all ECdis, GMDSS and similar was operated the same way, by which I mean the same knobs and knockers and software for every ECDI or Radio Station and then the Manufactureres can add their own frills.

That way we woiuld only need to do one course instead of the MCA and manufacturers.

13th November 2010, 10:45
The object of these courses is to provide jobs for those who teach them. Hence there is no desire to rationalise the process.
Let's face it 99.9% of this stuff could be learned via text book and DVD, followed perhaps by a simple test to establish that vital info is lodged in the grey matter.

13th November 2010, 11:26
Ultimately, these courses could be incorporated into the syllabus for the various "tickets". However, as they become mandatory, what happens to those that sat their "tickets" in the past? I have had my Masters for over 25 years, and in those days many of these new innovations were unheard of. So these separate courses have a use, and I am glad to say that I am still very up to date with my knowledge and competency.

Seafaring is still a practical occupation. You can learn all sorts of things from books, but not everyone can apply what they learn to real life situations. Using ECDIS as an example, there are many officers at sea who do not understand the system fully, and as a result there are accidents, and will continue to be. I am still bemused by an incident when I told the OOW to plot a position using ranges and bearings. He took the ranges and bearings off the ECDIS!!

I think that there needs to be more than just a "simple test" when you are talking about the safety of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ships, and thousands of lives. On several of these courses, you are continuously monitored and assessed, and short comings can be identified and corrected. I think that there is very much a need for refresher courses to keep all officers up to date with the latest knowledge, equipment and techniques. I have just completed a very intense advanced fire fighting course .... the previous one that I did was in 1977!! It was a very worthwhile experience. Nexy week it will be Crew Resource Management. I am fortunate to have an employer that is committed to sending me on 2 courses a year.

13th November 2010, 19:52
Having passed Master FG in 1973 I know all about simple tests. As for ECDIS it looks pretty simple to me PROVIDED that you don't confuse it with the real world.

13th November 2010, 20:02
That is fast becoming the problem!
It's all to easy for bridge watchkeepers to spend hours staring into the Radar screen, with position 'fixing' consisting of a cursory glance at the electronic chart.
It seems some have forgotten the bridge windows are even there.
Tunnel vision you might call it, but the odd thing is that it's an issue which seems to affect individuals with little regard as to their age, experience or even rank.
We've had radar assisted collisions since the invention of the device, and we're now witnessing regular ECDIS assisted groundings, a trend which I can only foresee worsening.

13th November 2010, 20:08

I don't know how they keep a proper watch on a modern bridge. They are so full of gadgets that you can barely see out of the windows.

13th November 2010, 20:19
There's certainly the possibility that there is too much electronic wizardry on the modern bridge, some examples of which seem like they need a degree in Electronics to operate!
In the long run I suspect we may move closer to the example set by the airline industry with regards double manning.
I feel that we're rapidly approaching the stage that the complexity and array of the kit available really requires the bridge to be attended by two qualified watchkeepers at all times.
In that vein, I can't help but think we're shooting ourselves in the foot by massively overcomplicating an issue which really does not require such complication.
The problem is that we now have a generation of watchkeepers who think they really need it all and would literally be lost if they no longer had their electronic charts and modern ARPA available.

Andy Lavies
13th November 2010, 20:22
I found that during the last years before I retired that there were fewer and fewer courses for all ranks. Accountants rule, training costs money and shows no advantage on the bottom line. Am I too cynical?

13th November 2010, 20:30
Not at all!
Training costs are an easy target for the accountants, although in many cases the Govt can contribute to the cost of such courses under the Support for Maritime Training Scheme (SMART). I suppose it depends as much on the will of the outfit as to anything else, certainly in the case of Oil Majors and Cruise companies the short course requirements are seemingly endless.
When I was still on tankers I was once sent to Windsor for a few days for a "Marine Enviromental Awareness" course, basically a day and a bit of being given the groundbreaking news that oil going over the side doesn't do the seagulls and fish any favours!

13th November 2010, 21:00
When I began sailing in 1975 all I was required to carry was my 3rd Mate's License and a VHF Radio License. By the time I retired I was going back to school at least once or twice a year to get certified in some new nonsense or other, and had to report aboard ship with a dossier of certificates over half an inch thick. The reason for most of these training courses is liability, an effort by the crew members and the companies to cover their respective asses. Every time some new bit of technology comes along the companies insist upon the personnel getting certified in it's use. There would be Hell to pay from the Admiralty Lawyers if, god forbid, there were some sort of an accident, and one of the Mates was found not to have passed the required GMDSS, ARPA, ECDIS, AIS, Hazardous Materials, Ship's Security Officer, or some other course.

13th November 2010, 21:54
Pointless really, as there are no positions open to many of the latest cadets leaving the various institutions.

14th November 2010, 03:31
Recently, I was on a ship as technical advisor for the cargo interests.

The bridge was well provided with windows and there were no equipment obstructions against them.

In mid ocean, one morning, I saw another ship about two points abaft the port beam at about 10 miles distance.

Speed and course were about the same as the vessel I was on, possibly 0.1 knots faster and 1 degree of converging course.

All our modern aids were switched on and working.

The AIS was not showing the ship, the radar was not showing the ship as the screen setting had the ship near the edge with only the forward targets visible.

Later that evening I was on the bridge and the other ship was much closer and showing her navigation lights clearly at about two miles.

Her existance was clearly not known by the OOW.

As my protocals limited the interface with the navigation of the vessel, I casually mentioned to the OOW that it looked like the ship abaft the beam had his AIS switched off.

Some consternation then on the part of the OOW as he tried to figure out what the ship was doing.

The crew were from a reasonably competent national source so training was as it was required.

In my watchkeeping days I doubt the radar would have been on and all ship avoidence would have been early and visual.


14th November 2010, 08:56
We've had radar assisted collisions since the invention of the device, and we're now witnessing regular ECDIS assisted groundings, a trend which I can only foresee worsening.

Which, of course, is the reason for the courses., and brings me back to my original comments. Make all the essential functions the same procedures. A 'Windows for ECDIS' if you like.

All the manufacturers will be/are wooing the world with their supergadgets. Keep the important things simple and there will be less confusion.

I have been with ECDIS once for a few weeks and found it to be a pain. Mainly because the instruction manual was crap, or at least not easy to use. If it was in 3 sections, Basics, intermediate and advanced then a watch would have been all that was needed to operate it safely. If I remember correctly, with this model to display the tidal streams weather receiving had to be activated, even though we could not recieve the weather. We got the tides though. Strange.

My apologies to Arthur2009, the thread seems to have gone astray a bit, seem to remamber a whole thread of ECDIS somewhere.

14th November 2010, 10:24

Most manufacturers' manuals are crap. They are designed to keep the manufacturer out of court. As an example; a year or so ago I bought a Nikon D60 digital camera, it was only when I got 'Nikon D60 for dummies' ( that I began to make real headway. Unfortunately I don't suppose anyone has written a 'dummies' manual for bridge equipment, maybe they should.

14th November 2010, 14:20
Whether we like it or not, the industry has changed. We all have rose tinted memories of how good life was 30 or more years ago, while our memories conveniently suppress the bad memories. However with these changes there have been many advances which if understood and used correctly are of great benefit to those of us who are still working at sea. No longer do we track targets on a reflection plotter with a chinagraph pencil. Yes it was effective, but also had its constraints. Try doing it with 20 or more targets. Yes it will indicate a risk of collision but with multiple targets it will be time consuming, so that the OOW is spending all of his time drawing on the plotter instead of concentrating on all of the aspects of keeping the watch. GPS has superceded taking sights as the principle method of position fixing. I am still proud of my ability to take and reduce multiple sights to an accurate position. However officially the accuracty of sights was plus or minus about 5 miles!! Good for making a difficult landfall!! The important thing to remember even today is that these are all AIDS to navigation. The principles of keeping a safe navigational watch have not changed.

The problem is total reliance on the new innovations without continueing to follow the basic principles. The first and most important of these is keeping a proper lookout, by sight, sound and by any other means available. Nothing has changed since the 1950's, 60's or 70's. How many people keep the bridge wing doors open ( or even did in the past) to hear sound signals, especially in fog?? That assumes that your ship even has open bridge wings any more. I am sure that there were at least as many casualties in the "old days" as there are today. The trouble is that with modern media communication it is much easier for these events to become common knowledge. I wonder if the guys on the Torrey canyon or the Elwood Mead would have turned their noses up at a modern GPS receiver or ECDIS if it had been available. After that spate of collisions in the Channel in the early 70's, would they have turned their noses up at an ARPA? There is nothing wrong with the equipment, only with the operator. Hence the need for these courses.

Most young OOW's nowadays have a bachelors degree or similar. They are normally very competent with electronics and computers and are proficient in their operation. Sometimes they place too much reliance on it and do not always understand the principles behind their operation and consequently the constraints. To use ECDIS purely as a chart display is relatively simple, much the same as using a paper chart. You look at it and interpret the information that you see. It displays your position, and providing that you have made checks that the position sensor is operating correctly, it is very straight forward.

The bigger problem is in the additional tasks that the OOW has to do, which distract him from keeping a look out. One of the contributing factors with the Norwegian Dream's collision off the Thames Estuary was that the OOW had been bringing the Garbage log up to date, prior to arrival in port in the morning.

My employers do send the junior officers on courses for watch keeping, to try and instill the correct practices. However it is also important for the more senior officers to attend courses. After completing Masters, there has to be a way of updating knowledge and remaining "current" with all of the latest advances. Just reading a book and doesn't do it. I recall doing my GMDSS course with a group of senior captains from a well known British tanker company. They had difficulty understanding the requirements and protocols but with the help of the instructor they mastered it.

Burned Toast
14th November 2010, 18:40
(==D)Captains or Master Mr Jeremy(==D)(==D)


Ps Do not forget the Masters that have dispensations, but not the rest(Thumb)


Ron Stringer
14th November 2010, 18:47
I have to agree with Captain Jeremy in that almost all problems with introducing new equipment, practices or procedures have to be overcome by educating/persuading the users to modify their behaviour so as to accommodate the changes. Having said that, to expect that a brief read-through of an instruction manual, just before taking over a watch, could be adequate preparation for the first time user of very complex systems, is stretching ambition too far.

Learning to use an ECDIS equipment and make proper (and safe) use of the facilities provided, is at least as challenging as learning to drive a car – and has some similarities. After only a brief time spent observing how a car is started, and how the gears are changed, most non-drivers could get into a car and drive it away. I suggest that is what many officers do when they first meet an ARPA or and ECDIS without prior training. However as we all know, there is more to being a driver than being able to start a car and set it in motion.

It is a great weakness of the shipping industry that they have introduced so many changes in recent years without any formal training requirements for the new systems. Nor has there been any analysis of the effectiveness of such training as has been provided for those on the Bridge. Their equivalents on the flight decks of commercial aircraft are required to perform conversion courses followed by suitable checks under supervision. They also have to undergo simulator checks at intervals to make sure that they have not forgotten their training. Not so at sea.

I have seen many complaints about the introduction of the GMDSS (a relatively simple alerting and communications system) and problems that the users have experienced on the Bridge. Nobody seems to consider whether those users were ever given any training in the purpose, facilities and actual use of GMDSS. If they did receive training, was it on the use of the particular equipment configuration with which they were confronted aboard ship, what was the syllabus for the training course, how long did it last, how was the student’s understanding, performance and competence assessed, what was the follow-up to the course comprised of, what checks are made periodically to assess the on-going understanding of the system?

Since it took an R/O several months of full-time training to gain competence in the principles and application of radio communications, it seemed over-ambitious to expect someone with limited technical knowledge to assimilate that information on a 3/5 day course (typically arrive Monday morning and take a simple operational check on Thursday/Friday prior to leaving for home on Friday afternoon. Then they wondered where all the false alarms were coming from.

Writing technical manuals is not an easy skill to perfect (I was never much good at it), even simple operating instruction cards can be a challenge. The writer starts from the advantaged position of knowing how the equipment works and what he is trying to achieve. The end-user does not have such advantages. When preparing such cards, I used to get a secretary to type out the text of my instructions (which ensured that she at least understood the words – if necessary after checking them out with me). With a clean script I would then present her with the equipment and ask her to do what the instructions said. It was very revealing to find just how many things threw her in spite of being totally obvious to me and the engineers on the team.

Once we had got the confusions sorted and the instructions re-typed, another non-technical person, if possible from a non-technical department, would take her place and we would repeat the exercise. Sometimes this necessitated two or three re-runs before we were satisfied that the instructions were as unambiguous as possible and could be followed by a completely untrained user and still obtain the required results. And that was for relatively-simple equipment such as a VHF radiotelephone. When it comes to something as complex as an ECDIS, it is not possible to take such a simplistic approach; in-depth training is essential, there is no substitute.

The correct approach should be that if you are going to require a man to operate equipment in the course of his duties, then you have the moral (if not the legal) responsibility of ensuring that he can use that equipment safely. You also have a commercial responsibility to your shareholders (who have paid for the equipment) of ensuring that he also knows how to get the best performance out of the facilities provided.

‘Muddle through’ or ‘use your initiative and basic knowledge’ are not acceptable alternatives to proper training.

Ian Brown
27th November 2010, 06:13
I don't see anyway back to having CoCs that are all inclusive.
With everything driven by how it will look in a court you have to have a convincing piece of paper to show that you had received suitable training in every new piece of equipment or process.
The training matrix required for LNG Officers in addition to normal CoC is massive and involves a lot of cost to Companies and a lot of consumed leave time spent on courses for the Officers.
One side issue of this is that for senior Officers to change to other types of ships these days is almost impossible.
I believe that the same things that made a good MN Officer a 100 years ago are the same things that are required today. An attitude to the job that included thoroughness to see its done right, watching out for the things that will go wrong and applying common sense to dealing with the problems that crop up.
The present obsession with following procedures and checklists is a poor substitute and may even inhibit those qualities.