Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Changing Requirements Keep Training Facilities Busy

By Kathy A. Smith

West Coast mariner training facilities continue to keep pace with ever-changing industry requirements for present and future mariners.

The California Maritime Academy’s Steve Kreta, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, says. “We’ve been anticipating the changes with regard to ECDIS, maritime security, bridge team management and engine team management, so we haven’t had to make any major changes to our curriculum. What’s new is fatigue training. We have to make sure cadets and licensed graduates understand the rules regarding rest, and we’ll be introducing those new requirements into the curriculum.”

Also under the new SCTW requirements, the terminology for AB and QMED will be changing to Seafarer Deck and Seafarer Engine. Ellis says the Academy’s deck program currently is serving 12 people, which approximates the number of internships available. In engineering, most of the class interns with Washington State Ferries or NOAA, and a variety of other shipping firms are also available. “These are intense courses that really prepare the students to go to work in the maritime industry.”

West Coast mariner training facilities continue to keep pace with ever-changing industry requirements for present and future mariners.

The California Maritime Academy’s Steve Kreta, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, says. “We’ve been anticipating the changes with regard to ECDIS, maritime security, bridge team management and engine team management, so we haven’t had to make any major changes to our curriculum. What’s new is fatigue training. We have to make sure cadets and licensed graduates understand the rules regarding rest, and we’ll be introducing those new requirements into the curriculum.”

Another new course the Academy is offering is part of the Master of Science, Transportation and Engineering Management Masters Degree is Humanitarian Disaster Management. “It’s for scenarios just like what is playing out in New York right now,” says Kreta. “We’re excited about the program. I believe it is the only Masters available in Humanitarian Management.”

Kreta says enrollment has been steadily increasing, with numbers nearing 1,000 students, which he attributes to the fact that a lot of public colleges are becoming more difficult to get into, so students are looking at different career paths that they might not have thought of before. “We have a very high employment rate at graduation,” he notes. The Academy’s graduate degree started last September, and the first class of 18 students will graduate in May 2013.

Simulation training is an integral part of the curriculum, and this past summer was the first time the shipboard simulator on the Academy’s training ship the T/S Golden Bear was fully functioning) Kreta explains. “The forward end allows our upper class students to practice going into the various ports. For example, he says, “The Port of LA is featured so students learn where the pilot boat would meet us, how they would enter the port, what the port looks like, so upon arrival in the real world, they would already have run that scenario. That has proven to be a tremendous asset to our students.”

A recently announced engineering requirement for US vessels transiting Canadian waters en route to and from Canadian ports is also calling for changes to some training programs. The US Coast Guard says effective October 26, 2013, Canada will require vessels having a propulsive power of at least 1,000HP to perform an engineering watch. Hence there will be certification changes to Designated Duty Engineers.

“Our preparation is going on right now so we can work on meeting the new demands,” says Dr. Carl O. Ellis, Assistant Dean of the Seattle Maritime Academy. Ellis reports spaces are quickly filling for the one-year engineering courses. Orientation begins in January and could be closed by March for classes that begin in September 2013. He says this is a great course for someone without any sea time who wants to be an engineer on a vessel.

The Academy’s new state-of-the-art facility is still on course for breaking ground in July of 2013. “When that happens, it will be an extraordinary moment in the maritime industry around here,” says Ellis.

Jon Kjaerulff, President of Seattle-based Fremont Maritime Services says new SCTW requirements will also affect basic safety and fire-fighting training. “Nothing has changed yet,” he says, “but it looks like in the not-too-distant future the rules will be published.”

Mariners will likely no longer receive automatic renewal of Basic Safety Training simply by documenting one year of sea time beyond the Boundary Line in the previous five-year period. At the very least, they will have to complete one day of practical survival refresher training, and one day of practical basic fire-fighting training.

Mariners without one year of sea time beyond the Boundary Line will still be required to complete either the 5-day original or 3-day refresher Basic Safety Training, which in addition to personal survival and fire-fighting, also cover first aid and personal safety. In addition, licensed mariners who are required to have advanced fire-fighting will probably require two days of advanced fire-fighting refresher training every five years at the time of renewal.

“The only course we will have to develop beyond what we already offer is the advanced fire-fighting 2-day refresher,” says Kjaerulff. “As far as the 1-day fire-fighting and survival courses, we already have a 3-day basic training refresher class and would simply take out the first aid and personal safety and social responsibilities day so it would become a 2-day refresher. There are also indications in the Coast Guard policy letter that they may require refresher training for proficiency in survival craft or lifeboatman but they don’t indicate a frequency on that.”

Besides the SCTW changes, another new industry change is on the horizon with regard to lifeboat safety. As of January, 2013, IMO regulations via SOLAS Chapter III/1.5 will see hook manufacturers testing their hooks, now called release and retrieval systems, against new criteria intended to dramatically improve safety.

Hooks that don’t meet the criteria must be replaced on ships at their first drydocking after July 1, 2014 and no later than July 1, 2019. Captain Pat Boyle, Director of Training and Certification for the Anacortes, Washington-based Q3 Marine Training says, “We haven’t seen any effect on our enrollment just yet, but we do see companies rehooking in advance of the July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2019 period.”
Boyle says there are some 70 manufacturers on the market, which has made dealing with lifeboat hooks complicated for the mariner. “Hopefully, after the new hooks are introduced, mariners should only have to work with a dozen or so from ship to ship during their career,” he says. “We anticipate an increase in training activity as shipowners will have this as an unavoidable cost.”

Also adjusting to new SCTW requirements, Q3 will be running their first Able Body Seaman course in December. “We can capture mariners right when they’re being certified to work, so we can introduce them to the proper methodologies of lifeboat use.”

“We always emphasize safety concerns in operating lifeboat davits,” adds Julie Keim, owner of Compass Courses located in Edmonds, Washington. “There have been so many accidents and even deaths during lifeboat drills. Lifesaving equipment should have as few inherent risks as possible, and these new regulations are working toward that goal.”

Keim says Compass Courses’ current numbers are on track with the 1,100 mariners the company trained in 2011. “We are seeing an uptick in the fourth quarter though, and we attribute that to the looming changes in fishing regulations and a general shift in safety culture. We are also busy gearing up for the 2013 Crowley Safety Program Basic Safety Training Refresher class which will see around 600 crew.”

Compass Courses is also adjusting their courses to meet the SCTW Manila amendments. Additionally, they’ve added a 2-day Apprentice Mate (Steersman), 4-day Upgrade Master 100 Ton to Master 200 Ton, Fishing Vessel Drill Instructor and Assistance Towing to their long-established training courses. They are also joining forces with The Anchor Program (a non-profit service organization that provides vocational and life skills training to youth and others interested in pursuing careers in the maritime industry), and starting in 2013, the school will be offering a new four-week QMED course.”

Even students as young as age 15 who enter Seattle’s Ballard Maritime Academy (BMA), part of Ballard High School, are now starting to get familiar with SCTW requirements. “This year we’ll be taking a group of students through the full SCTW Basic Safety Training course because it’s the minimum certification they’re going to need doing anything on a vessel,” says Lead Instructor John Foster. “We do part of the training here, and the second part is done at California Maritime Academy.” During the training in California, the students will share dorms, eat cafeteria food, and use the facilities to carry out their water safety exercises in order to get real-world certification. “It not only teaches them how to be safe, but also about how to get along with people in shipboard environments,” he adds.

Foster explains senior students have two options with BMA; one is an oceanography 101 course that is a college-equivalent high school course they can use for college credits, and on the maritime side, they can take an Operator Uninspected Passenger Vessel (OUPV) license course, a base entry-level Coast Guard license exam. “If students are interested in a career, this is the first level of training,” he says. “It teaches them the rules of the road, deck operations, standing watch, how to get and maintain a license and what training you need. Most won’t have sea time yet, but this is a good introduction on how Coast Guard exams and licensing work, and gives them a chance to start a career a lot earlier.”

Juniors also play engineer-for-a-day and go down to Northwest Seaport and see the progress of technology on ships like the historic Virginia V steamship and the Arthur Foss Washington diesel vessel. Foster is also excited to be working with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service on a history project where some of the students are interviewing old-time fishermen to get their stories of years-gone-by.

“One of the great things that has happened is we have students who are graduating from maritime schools and getting jobs and making good money. These kids are coming back and telling their stories,” he continues. “It’s good for the students to hear it from someone who’s closer in age to them, that way it’s much more valuable and relevant to them.”

The Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing & Technology, part of Skagit Valley College, has been seeing a flock of new students as new fisheries legislation recently introduced could see some two to four hundred new boats required to be built, according to Director Ann Avary. “Clearly the State of Washington has a very robust shipbuilding component, and I think one of the exciting things about that is not only the jobs that it will create but the demand for very specific types of training around ship fitting, so if you know your way around electronics, electrical, corrosion, HVAC and that type technology, there really are jobs out there waiting for you.”

Avary says the increase in enrollment is a wonderful problem to have. “We are at a point where we are trying to manage this growth that’s occurring. We have a second section in one of our composites course that we’ve never had before. We could very well be in a position where we are having to offer second sessions again of some courses.”

Generally, the Marine Technology courses are 10 weeks long, and there are one and two-year options in the program. For instance, students doing the one-year track would get a marine technology certificate from Skagit Valley College. And at the end of the academic year, they can sit for a number of credentialing exams that are nationally and sometimes internationally recognized by the industry.

Paid internships are also part of the curriculum, plus the college program also has industry experts come in and give presentations. Additionally, those working in the field often return to take additional courses. “We do a fair amount of incumbent employee training,” says Avary. “The use of materials, design processes and the technical competencies are going to continue to evolve. We are going to see technology areas grow exponentially in the next five years.”

In July, PMI-MITAGS’ Workboat Academy located in Seattle, was awarded the Registered Apprenticeship Innovator and Trailblazer for PMI’s Apprenticeship Program, in recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the National Apprenticeship Act by the US Dept. of Labor. “This award recognizes apprenticeships across all trades,” says Glen Paine, Executive Director of PMI-MITAGS. “Upon graduation, more than 90 percent of students are staying with the company they apprentice with and more than 98 percent since 2005 are still working in the industry.”

Workboat Academy Assistant Director Marja van Pietersom says the two-year program covers academic, sea phases as well as simulator phases. “We hit them four times with the same information (classroom, simulator, on-board training, on-board assessment) so they really understand how to apply what they learn in the field. We also get together with our now 31 partner companies to discuss what we can do to enhance the program based on what’s happening in the industry.”

During final exams, students are observed in the Academy’s simulator by representatives of the company they’ve been apprenticing with. “We call it the second interview,” says van Pietersom. Paine reports the Academy has invested heavily in their simulator in order to keep improving on technology for better assessments. “People really believe they’re at sea when in the simulator.”

The Academy has also been very successful in readying people in the military who are transitioning careers. Together PMI-MITAGS issues 6,000 certificates a year. Additionally, adds Paine, “College credits are also given. Students can get a B.A. or Masters, which is a great value-added option that is really helpful for their transition to a shore position.”