Competency ain’t worth the paper

Few of our readers had the opportunity to hear Eric Murdoch, Chief Surveyor for  the Standard Club  give his presentation “Operational errors, why they happen and what owners can do to minimise them” at the International Union of Marine Insurers meeting in Copenhagen this year, but Steve Harris of Maritime Web Award fame did.

One set of points in particular caught my eye in the Powerpoint presentation:

Seafarer training
• certificates of competency do not necessarily mean the holder can do the job
• experience or education based training schemes
• application is learnt on board not at college…know your onions
• are certificate schemes keeping up with technology?
• are junior officers promoted too quickly?

Anyone inclined to browse through accident report after accident report will certainly give an uptick to the first point. In almost every case the crewmember had the appropriate certificates and was therefore assumed to be competent. Many of those seafarers are dead.

Point Three seems to be screamingly obvious to anyone outside the industry but has made little headway within it. Competency is established in the workplace and that is where it should be measured, assessed and assured.

To put with brutal frankness, accident happen most often because, despite the paperwork, the seafarers were incompetence at the time of the incident. Nobody knew they were incompetent because they hadn’t been assessed and their trained need were not identified.

Indeed, Eric Murdoch very rightly recommends:  “…actively evaluate sea staff
competence and training needs”.

At a time when oil spills, groundings, collisions and fatalities occur at depressingly frequent intervals, Murdoch makes sound sense, not just his thoughts on competency but on other measures that could mitigate the loss of ships and human life.

What is needed is the firm resolve to bring about change.

One has to wonder where that resolve will come from.

You can get copies of the presentations at the IUMI website here .

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