Maritime English Language Training Standards
Start date: Sep 1, 2015,
End date: Aug 31, 2018
The shipping industry is a key component of the global economy, carrying nearly 90% of world trade. The industry is regulated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the UN specialised agency for maritime affairs. IMO is aware that over 80% of the reported accidents and incidents at sea and in ports are due to human errors (IMO, 2012, Horner, 2014) and over 30% of these accidents are due to linguistic and communications mistakes (Ziarati, 2006, Trekner, 2010).
Since its inception the IMO has recognized the importance of human resources for the development of the maritime industry. Following the adoption of the revised International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) in 2010 a number of IMO member states suggested that IMO should develop model training courses to assist with the implementation of the Convention and in achieving a more rapid transfer of information and skills regarding new developments in maritime industry and technology. In addition, there was a consensus that a comprehensive set of short model courses in the various fields of maritime training would supplement the instruction provided by maritime academies. Model courses would also allow administrators and technical specialists already employed in maritime administrations, ports and shipping companies to improve their knowledge and skills in certain specialised fields. It interesting that IMO has adopted different set of language requirements for different types and rank of seafarers and has referred to EU MarTEL standards but as added three new categories to MarTEL seafarer classification namely, Electro-Technical Officers, GMDSS radio operators and for personnel providing direct service to passengers in passenger spaces on passenger ships
Language and communication are fundamental elements of the shipping sector, especially with Maritime English being the language of the sea. The IMO approved the newly revised Model Course 3.17 for Maritime English in January 2015. This will lead to adaptations and updates of existing academic programmes requiring alignment with the IMO-approved revisions. In devising the course IMO has made references to EU funded projects such as MarTEL, MarTEL Plus, MarEng and MarEngPlus as well as SeaTALK.
IMO states that (http://www.marifuture.org/Reports/Development-Papers/IMO_New_Model_Course_Maritime_English.pdf) because educational systems and the cultural backgrounds of trainees in maritime subjects vary considerably from country to country, the model course material has been designed to identify the basic entry requirements and there are no mechanisms for controlling the variation of the output from such courses. To remove the acknowledged variation this proposal aims to develop a new set of assessment standards for the IMO’s revised Model Course 3.17 for Maritime English and include the three new categories of seafarers into the existing standards. The project will use the results of recent EU-funded projects to produce a combined learning and assessment package with clear sign posts to existing materials available Europe-wide.
The project will develop an e-learning and e-assessment package for up-skilling seafarers and one that will grow in importance as e-learning becomes more widely implemented now that the IMO has recognised its validity in the recent IMO 2010 STCW amendments.
The new assessment standards will not only be in-line with the newly revised model course 3.17 Maritime English, but be linked with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Setting common standards for assessment with training programmes directly linked to the CEFR, ECVET compliant, will ensure students and seafarers can learn and work throughout Europe, through the application of common content and assessment. This will help seafarers to be mobile, and have a greater access to job opportunities and career progression across Europe and the world. A number of studies (OECD, 2010, European Commission, 2011 and BIMCO, 2005, 2010), have demonstrated there is an imbalance of seafarers in different EU countries. With the language of the sea being English, this imbalance could be addressed through the development of a new set of assessment standards for Maritime English.
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