The city's only government-subsidised training school for seamen has been using instructors without up-to-date qualifications, according to one of its retired teachers.
Chow Wan-hoi, an instructor at the Maritime Services Training Institute for 11 years until his retirement in July, said at least six teachers did not hold the relevant licences when he worked there.
One of the unqualified instructors taught radar skills, four other taught basic seafaring skills for deckhands and the other taught multiple courses, Chow said. One of the instructors is still with the school, he says, while the others have retired.
"It's ironic that the school employed teachers who had not even passed the examinations to teach those courses for more than 10 years," he said.
He said that the teachers were hired on licences recognised under the former International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
But when the convention was replaced in 1995, the school did not arrange training for the instructors to renew their licences.
Chow took the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman, but in vain.
He also said the institute did not offer enough radar training courses. Before 2006, Chow said, the institute offered eight basic radar operator courses a year, with 10 students per course. Today two or three courses are offered each year, he said, but there was a waiting list of about 100 students, with some resorting to taking instruction on the mainland.
"If the school doesn't hold more classes, there will be people working at sea who wanted to learn radar but did not have the chance. This could create a risk at sea," Chow said.
Director of Marine Francis Liu Hon-por said yesterday that the department would enhance courses and examinations for coxswains.
A spokeswoman for the institute said that it offered two basic radar operator courses in the first quarter of this year, and only a few people were on the waiting list for the next class.