Shipowners' committee seeks standard training requirements in the region
Wong Joon San
The seamen's committee of the Asian Shipowners Forum (ASF) wants the Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) to take its study on the seven Maritime Education and Training Institutions (METs) in China to a regional level.
The committee, which held its sixth interim meeting in Hong Kong recently, said the METs' networking concept could be expanded to other Asian training institutions.
It proposed the HKSOA extend its co-operation to the Association of Maritime Education and Training Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (Ametiap) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific to achieve this aim.
The committee believed Ametiap's maritime English programme for the Philippines could be integrated with its vision of a regional METs programme in the future.
The HKSOA's study intends to establish a network among the METs to ensure a standard set of requirements for cadets in the country.
Director Arthur Bowring said: 'Emphasis will be put on English language, work attitude, nautical skills and marine engineering skills.'
The committee also urged the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to publish its first 'white list' of countries meeting requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 95 convention, even though some leading crew-supply countries might not be included.
Any possible delay might cause serious problems for flag states, it said.
As flag states using 'foreign' seafarers needed to complete their certificate recognition with the labour-supply countries before February 2002, the committee said, they might wish to consult the white list.
During the meeting - attended by delegates from member associations of China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and from the Federation of Asean Shipowners Associations - concern was expressed over the indiscriminate use by contingency-fee lawyers of Panamanian jurisdiction to force owners into resettlement of crew claims that had long been settled or were pending decisions in the Philippines.
The committee considered such cases should be heard in the Philippines.
It urged the Panamanian Government to sign the bilateral treaty proposed by the Philippines or take other measures to return jurisdiction for these cases to the country of the seafarers' nationality.
An ASF delegation might need to visit the Philippines to voice the concerns of Asian shipowners to the government and hear the feedback from the country's shipping industry, the committee said.
The committee also said there was a need to draw the attention of the international media to the matter.
Meanwhile, most of the members of the committee's International Labour Organisation (ILO) minimum-wage working group opposed a 'global' interpretation of the organisation's minimum wage.
The working group insisted it should be the unions' prerogative to agree to an ILO interpretation with their respective countries' shipowners on the minimum wages for seafarers, both domiciled and non-domiciled, serving on national-flag ships.
To follow up the issue, the group will need to consider other options, including the possibility of a wage level agreed among Asian owners and unions.
The committee also said it believed the Standard Marine Communication Phrases had to be revised.
It said the document should be condensed to contain only essential operational and safety-related marine communications phrases.
The practice of requiring seafarers to learn the phrases by rote should be discouraged, it said. Rather, they should be taught on how to communicate in English.
The committee's safe-manning working group expressed concern about competition among flag states when stipulating minimum safe-manning levels.
This would result in unacceptably low crew levels, contributing to crew fatigue and endangering life at sea, the group said.
The committee urged the IMO to provide more guidelines on the issue to ensure a uniform interpretation of the organisation's resolution on minimum safe-manning levels.
The working group also was asked to recommend the minimum safe-manning standards for ocean-going cargo vessels.
Reports of fraudulent certificates in the region also aroused the committee's concern.
Delegates at the meeting were urged to draw the attention of their flag states to the possible consequences of this problem and ask them for solutions.