Foreign cadet training delay angers HKSA
THE Hong Kong Ship-owners' Association (HKSA) is getting frustrated at the delay in official confirmation of plans that the Seamen's Training Centre will admit non-Hong Kong nationals for training as deck cadets.
Towards the end of July, the centre's manager Jack Haworth said the centre would train any seafarers serving on Hong Kong-registered and managed ships, regardless of which flag the ship flew.
But HKSA director Michael Farlie said this decision had not been conveyed to the association in writing.
''If they have taken a decision to enroll non-Hong Kong nationals, they should let us know in order for us to publicise the same among our members,'' Mr Farlie said.
Offshore owners of Hong Kong ships might be interested in sending their cadets to the centre, he said. He added that the association was baffled as to why nationality restrictions had been placed in the first place.
The maritime training facilities in Hong Kong were created under the SOLAS Convention and should be open to nationals of all countries, whether or not they were working on Hong Kong ships, he said.
He said the number of non-Hong Kong nationals was still restricted to 10 per cent of the centre's annual intake.
He said it was a pity that the centre, described by the International Maritime Organisation last year as ''second to none in the world'', had been unable to fill the available seats due to nationality restrictions.
''This superb facility should be filled to the brim, no matter where the cadets come from.'' Apart from the allowances given by the centre, the association is committed to give HK$500 a month in fees and prizes for every cadet enrolled at the centre.
The HKSA has budgeted more than $500,000 a year to sponsor 40 deck cadets at the centre and about 100 engineering cadets at three other training institutions - the Hong Kong Polytechnic, the Hong Kong Technical College at Tsing Yi and the Haking Wong Technical Institute.
In addition, the HKSA prints individually designed publicity brochures and pays for newspaper advertisements in the summer to support their recruitment campaigns.
He said Hong Kong should seek to forge closer ties with China in the maritime sector and facilitate the training of Chinese seamen by opening up its facilities.
''In the maritime sector, we should start regarding ourselves as part of China because after 1997 Hong Kong will become China's leading maritime city.'' He said international shipping stood apart from manufacturing and construction industries.
As such, the immigration status and accommodation problems of the mainland cadets should be sorted out easily, he said.
''Their numbers in proportion to the size of the shipping industry will be minuscule.'' It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are associated, directly or indirectly, with shipping in Hong Kong.
He said the local seamen's unions should have no problem with the admission of mainland cadets because their stance that local training facilities should cater for locals seemed to have evaporated with the lack of enthusiasm shown by the locals.