The Education and Manpower Branch has been urged to clarify allegations of a possible closure of the Seamen's Training Centre (STC) and the scrapping of the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB). The Hong Kong Shipping Daily reported that radical proposals, including the possible closure of the STC and MNTB, had been put forward in a draft consultant's report to the Vocational Training Council (VTC). STC staff were told on Saturday that the centre was under-used and that 'regionalisation' or closure were options under consideration. Hong Kong Shipowners' Association director Michael Farlie said the Education and Manpower Branch should move quickly to straighten out the matter. 'There must be a serious misunderstanding,' he said. 'I wonder whether the consultants are aware of the implications of such proposals?' It was reported that the consultancy firm, Fegal, Quince, Wicksteed (Asia), had consulted the industry with just a talk with Mr Farlie and only one visit to the STC by the consultant's team. M. Hanson and Christopher Green of the consultancy firm were not available for comment. A VTC spokesman said he had not heard of the consultant's proposal, and even if they were true, the proposals could be changed. 'The VTC has not received any report and it is too early to comment,' he said. Mr Farlie said he was alarmed to read the press reports. 'It is astonishing that such proposals concerning the STC and MNTB are being made at a time when the local shipping industry is proposing the expansion and upgrading of the STC in order to comply with the International Maritime Organisation's amendments to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention, not to mention the drive to develop Hong Kong as the region's leading service centre, and the association's need to train PRC seafarers in Hong Kong in the future. 'A proposal to close down the STC does not appear to take into account the serious undermining that this would have on the standing of the Hong Kong Shipping Register and also Hong Kong's associate membership of the IMO.' Mr Farlie added that Hong Kong would be the laughing stock of the international community.