I was surfing through the United Filipino seafarers website when I came across an interesting article on licenses and promotions aboard commercial ships sailing under the Panamanian Flag. This made me think of the long uphill battle I face “with” Transport Canada to get my second-class license. I would rather have a root canal done instead of tackling a multitude of “math” exams (commonly referred to as Part A's), that I will / have rarely use in the real world of my day to day operations onboard, and the worst part, that I have proven in school to have done already.
Of course going through the process myself, I long for a quick painless ascension through the ranks, after all I do have formal marine engineering schooling at PMTI in Vancouver. Its not like the old days, where people could walk off the street, challenge the exams and get a license, we now have STCW95, stipulating standards across the board - right? So why is it the more international seafarers I run across seem to have less restrictions in the progression through the ranks than Canadians. Seems like in Canada, it takes 10-15 yrs of sea time and exams to get to the 1st class level, while I sail with many Norwegian and Italian (among others) Chief engineers in their mid to late 20’s. Now I read that Panamanian flag sailors can just get their license upgrades through their company, sort to speak.
The only seafarers that I have run across, that seem to have a similar licensing program than Canada was the Venezuelans, but then again I only know of two. With such apparent extremes in licensing standards (that’s what I though STCW95 was suppose to address), makes me think that maybe its time for Canada to review our standards and evaluate it against other nations' realities and adjust accordingly. It’s not to say that we should hand out licenses to anyone, but lets be realistic and maybe have a modernization plan in place at Transport Canada because apparently we are out of touch.
I know in the last ten years, TC has been working hard to modernize the process, which is nice, because at least now, what is expected is written down, and not left to individual’s interpretation or preferences. In using an analogy, the polishing of a classic 1950’s car makes it look nice, but maybe we need a modern fuel-efficient car instead.
In the big picture, this article might highlight the relevance and bite of the regulatory bodies of the world. It seems like there is more and more regulations and overseer than ever. Yet to me, this “inhouse” promotion scheme by a Flag of Convenience nation might not be in the best interest of too many. Relaxing standards is a convenient way of addressing lack of investment in crew, and the general erosion of pay for seafarers.
Sure it’s a great opportunity for Filipino seafarers to advance, and some do really deserve it. I think watering down license standards may be akin to shooting one’s own foot. In the end it just seems to allows a company to use a cheap scapegoats should an accident happen. “Its not the company’s fault, we had licensed engineer on watch! He’s since been fired, and the blame goes with them”.
Here's a quote from the article, read more and let me know what you think.
"One Korean shipowner, who was asked to comment on the issue, was very candid in saying: “Who can prevent us from adopting the crew promotions system onboard our Panama-flagged vessels? As owners, we are the ones taking the risk. If and when an accident happens, no Philippine maritime agencies would be answerable to it, that’s for sure.”