News From Fort Schuyler

April 26, 1999 - License Renewal And STCW

KEEPING UP WITH AN EVOLVING STCW - Responding to the April 12 issue of NFFS was DENNIS COMPTON, Class of 1976, Assistant Academic Dean at the USMMA: "Reading this 'issue' with great interest, as I am tasked with implementing STCW 95 here at Kings Point. Several points are raised when I think about the contents of this 'issue'".

"Firstly, in response to KAREN ARNO, the USCG announced at the recent MERPAC meeting (April 1, 1999) that there is no funding for the implementation of the License Reengineering Team Report which would have closed the New York office and many others as we know them. It did not necessarily mean that the offices would be centralized and all transactions would be done by mail but it did mean "privatizing" a good deal of what the RECs do. The word "privatizing" has now been replaced by "outsourcing" and the implementation has been put on ice until properly funded which may be a year or two away."

"Secondly, several points (in no particular order) with respect to the message from KIRBY STROSS. The reference to the Basic Safety Training that everyone already had and that the USCG is now allowing relaxed assessment for. Having been in the world of maritime education for some 20 years now I can promise that no one in this country (at any Academy) ever did the complete version of the Basic Safety Modules and not each and every person was assessed as the STCW calls for. So I find it hard to accept the line that 'we already had this stuff' when we really did not and how much is too much safety anyway?????"

"Next the reference by Captain Stross to the required training that will occur as practicing mariners attempt to get in compliance for 2002 and after. Really there is a required assessment of competency and some training may be required as well. The assessment of competency can be done through demonstration of skills in front of Designated Examiners. This points to a real trainwreck in that no one is really talking about where we will find Designated Examiners. One does not necessarily need to take a course to prove competency, but where does one find Designated Examiners outside of the training establishments??? This is an issue for all upgrades from 2nd Mate to Chief and from 2nd Assistant to 1st as we move from Operational Level to Management Level. There are pages and pages of competences in STCW concerning this type of raise in grade yet no one is discussing the mechanics of how it will be done. For now the relaxed assessment in Basic Safety has been extended by the USCG and that part of the problem is sort of solved. Will they do the same for upgrades or will we start talking about a solution before the trainwreck???"

"Lastly, I disagree with the reference to the "boundary line" as being the three mile limit. It is my understanding that the boundary is that of the Collision Regulations which is to say if you enter the areas governed by International Rules of the Road you are required to have proper STCW certification. Hence the great uproar by small vessel operators such as the whale watching tours and so on."

"On a final note, the whole business of implementing the STCW 95 is a process that is alive and changing from day to day. The story of how the USA ever signed onto it and who represented mariners or maritime educators at the IMO is a sad one indeed. Nevertheless STCW is real and it is here to stay. The growing pains will not end for years as the IMO continues to meet on related topics to decide what was meant by the Code and as the USCG and the maritime community try to

reach agreement in the USA as to what we can present to the IMO that might put us on the white list and keep us there.

KEEPING UP WITH THE INDUSTRY - In the view of JERRY HASSELBACH, Class of 1969, there is some catching-up to be done in regards to licensure. Referring to his comment in the April 6th NFFS, he writes: "I was only trying to point out that the Coast Guard.....was a little out of touch with present reality of what is required for shipboard knowledge. 'Watch Standing' for Engineers was a distinctly over-rated job requirement. Normally the Engineer could do it sitting with his head in a magazine. On Automated Vessels, the Engineer's job is now more related to shoreside engineering, in that the Engineer now trouble-shoots, does Planned Preventive Maintenance, (and a great deal of crisis management) and to some extent design work, trying to make an existing system more usable, and if he has done a good job during the day, can pretty much sleep all night, instead of answering alarms."

"The Coast Guard has always been lagging behind the industry. I don't think there was one question on my 3rd, 2nd or Chief Mate's license on Container Ships, yet that was the only kind of ship that I have spent any appreciable time on. When I took my Master's license in '79, there were a few, but they were really stupid questions, that gave me the impression that the CG knew that they should ask some "container questions" but had no idea what to ask, or what was important. What they should have been asking was stuff that had to do with putting out container fires, on deck and in cargo holds, the placement of emergency squads, and the equipment required, how to put fires out in teams when the crew is between 15 and 21 persons, compatibility of Dangerous and Hazardous cargoes, and where to stow them in containers, etc. But at that time they had not even promulgated any guidelines for any of that. Not until after the SEA WITCH disaster and even long after that. Even today they have not seriously set up standards for firefighting container fires."

The Coast Guard makes our rules, but does not participate in our industry. They are good at lifting people off ships, and lifesaving and drug interdiction, but not the commercial fishing or shipping industry."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to the specialized subject of this issue, it was only distributed to alumni and faculty subscribers.