Shipowners seek HK dormitories for mainland seamen
By WONG JOON SAN
THE Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSA) wants the Vocational Training Council to build dormitories to house trainee mainland mariners.
HKSA suggests the Seamen's Training Centre at Tai Lam Chung in the New Territories as the site for the project.
At present, there is a shortage of seamen especially on Korean and Japanese vessels.
HKSA director Michael Farlie said: 'There could potentially be millions of young people in China who would give anything to be trained on foreign-flagged ships and Chinese ships.' He said the last exercise of training Filipino seamen at the centre had proved to be too expensive.
This was because the seamen were accommodated at the Mariner's Club in Tsim Sha Tsui and transported to the New Territories for the courses by coach.
The HKSA is involved with the training courses through a cadet sponsorship programme which began in April 1992.
Mr Farlie said since it was cheaper to train Filipino seamen in the Philippines, they would not be sent to Tai Lam Chung again.
'We can't do it for charity,' he said, adding that the exercise still had to be profitable even though the territory was about to become part of China next year.
Mr Farlie said when the amendments to the International Maritime Organisation's certification standards came into force in February 1997, difficult times were ahead for smaller establishments such as owners of passenger vessels and ferry boats.
The amendments cover the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).
The amendments are to ensure that governments that are parties to the convention implement STCW requirements, and that certificates were issued to seamen only when they had met the minimum standards.
It will clarify the responsibility of flag states regarding the competence of seamen serving on their ships, regardless of the provenance of such certificates.
The convention also covers the use of simulators in training, the qualifications of training instructors and assessors, measures to prevent fatigue, and alternative arrangements for issuing certificates.
The shortage of seamen would have been worse if training centres in India and the Philippines had not supplied fresh blood over the last few years, Mr Farlie said.
Mr Farlie said if non-qualified officers or crew were detained, they would be fined under port-state control.
He said in the future, English would play a more important role in shipping, as everyone would have to explain what they were expected to do in an emergency and also the procedures involved.
The HKSA had convinced its Chinese counterparts that mainland seamen and officers had to be properly qualified or face penalties under the amended STCW convention when they sailed into a foreign port, Mr Farlie said.
This had led to the start of a pilot project in China in September last year when copies of the STCW translated by the HKSA were made available, he said.