In the new era of 2017 Maritime English is a must for all the seafarers working globally. It is vitally important that those involved in any operational situation communicate effectively.
Maritime English proved to be a very important part of a future navigating officer’s training and it will still gain in importance as long as the shipping industry is in progress. It’s only up to young seafarers to get acquainted with Maritime English as their lives, other crew members’ lives and the ship’s integrity might depend on this particular aspect.
When students that are not native English go on board merchant vessels for the first time to be Apprentice Deck Officers (often called Deck Cadets) they find it hard to learn anything from experienced Officers who are speaking to them in English and also these Officers are not always speaking a correct English.
As it is well known, most of the maritime accidents happen due to human errors and these occur especially because of bad communication.This is a result of not using standard Maritime English that should be well known by all crew members of a ship, with a special attention drawn towards young Apprentices.
Because the concept of a single nationality crew is no longer met in the world shipping industry, proper communication can be achieved only by using Maritime English focusing especially on young Apprentices as they are the mistakes sensitive ones.
I would like to dedicate this blog to this particular issue for which I would also be referring anecdotes from my experience as a Master and also from various research papers on the subject of Maritime English and discuss how the technology can help in the training of Maritime English.
Why only English for the Merchant Navy?
Nowadays it is well known all around the shipping industry that English is the main and only language that should be used in any type of maritime communication. Even so, more and more people, especially students of Maritime Universities from countries where a different language is used for teaching, have trouble understanding the importance of speaking English.
Their English language should also be fluent and easily understandable by all the other members of the team or crew that are not native English. English is the international language that is used worldwide and therefore the shipping industry accepted it as the main language on board ships and in communications ship-to-ship and ship-to-coast.
In this era of globalization, the Apprentice Deck Officers wishing to go on board merchant ships cannot afford to be left out for not mastering English. This is the main reason for which teachers from Maritime Universities all over the world should try to explain to their students the importance of knowing Maritime English.
It does not matter the subject that the teacher has to teach during his/her classes as long as the specific maritime courses would have the keywords attached in English. It is worth noting that the new learners (in this case students from a Maritime University) of a language (English language) really do need to build a solid foundation of knowledge and it is useful for them that all of their teachers know and control Maritime English. It should become really easy for them to use some important maritime terms used daily on board ships and in any type of communications.
During the last years, it has been noticed the appearance of an important system inside Maritime Education and Training and that is training the Deck Apprentices by using the simulators. It has been generally agreed that the graduates of some Maritime Universities need a proper training regarding Maritime English during the study years by using simulators in order to keep up with the changes that occur on board a merchant ship due to advances made in Maritime Education and Training as a direct result of equipment development, smaller crews that can operate ships exactly in the same way and at the same level of professionalism as the larger crews used in the good old days, reduced time spent in ports for ship’s operations and so on.
The modern Deck Officer must understand the basic concepts of the navigation systems used nowadays and in order to accomplish this they need a proper Maritime English to evaluate their output’s accuracy and finally getting the right possible navigational decisions. For a new Deck Apprentice embarked onboard a merchant ship for the first time it is important to know an adequate Maritime English and this can be obtained only by a proper training including training on simulators.
THE SEA AND SEAMAN'S LANGUAGE – MARITIME ENGLISH
The need for effective communications at sea and ashore is internationally well known for all the shipping industry and the seafarers are obliged to gain the appropriate skills and knowledge to communicate effectively and efficiently. Communication is an essential part of human interaction. The benefits of effective communication are many and obvious as they enhance all aspects of our personal and professional lives.
Ineffective or misunderstood communications in our personal lives may give rise to problems or embarrassment but in our professional lives, the results of misunderstandings may have much more serious results. In the world of international shipping, with seafarers from many countries sailing on ships all over the world, effective communication ship-to-ship, and ship-to-coast is vitally important.
Today it is quite normal for ships around the world to sail with a complement of twelve able crew members. It is also possible for this very same vessel to sail around with twelve completely different nationalities, all speaking English daily, all communicating, socializing and swearing in that one common language. All of them have learned and maybe most of them are still learning to use English on a daily basis at work and as the communication language.
Some twenty years ago a certain vessel ended up aground not five minutes after exiting Falmouth dry dock. Whilst the damage was not great and the vessel managed to scrape herself off the mud to proceed on her way (after suitable inspection and a new Master), the event occurred simply due to the language barrier on board.
The very frustrated Chinese Captain was at the moment of the grounding, spitting hysterically into the mouthpiece of the bridge phone in Mandarin. He was obviously trying to educate the Nigerian Chief Engineer below, who was by then shriveled in fear underneath the console, that he needed an eastern movement on the engine.
Due to the serious lack of a common language, regulations, like the one produced by IMO, came into being.
It can also be pointed out that many ships floating around today are filled from top to bottom with some weird speaking Scotsmen that even a Scottish lowlander cannot understand (some say this is not English, more like a group of people clearing their throats in a loud and unapologetic fashion) and others have noted that some ships sail around with Singaporeans who have created their own English language which again nobody can understand and that comes without a dictionary, but this anomaly might have to be accepted without question.
My personal view on this is that no law in this world, no dictionary, translator or reduction in salary is going to make a Scotsman or Singaporean talk in understandable English so whilst all other nations have made great effort to learn the language and to use it in favour of their own tongue, they will just have to accept the fact that half of those whose mother tongue is English can’t be understood by anybody else.
IMO analyses report of casualties and accidents in order to see if there are any lessons to be learned for the future. Many accidents are found to be due mainly to operational issues of proper procedure, maintenance, and design, rather than to proper implementation of regulations, but the effectiveness of bridge resource management and particularly ineffective relationships between Master, haveChief Engineer, crew and pilot are recurrent themes.
Communication difficulties often occur in these areas due in part to cultural differences but also due to language ‘barriers’ which seem to be a big problem as the crew members do not want to acknowledge the fact that communication (especially a proper one which implies using an English language that can be understood by anybody) is very important if you want a safe voyage from point A to point B.
Because most maritime accidents are caused by human error, notably breakdowns in communication or cooperation, the legislation nowadays emphasizes the importance of the English language proficiency in relation to safety at sea. Instruction and practice of maritime English for communication and cooperation is an important element in maritime education.
Maritime English is to a great extent restricted to IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases(SMCP), which builds on a basic knowledge of English and has been drafted in a simplified version of maritime English. It includes phrases for use in routine situations such as berthing as well as standard phrases and responses for use in emergency situations. Under the STCW 1978, as amended, the ability to understand and use the SMCP is required for the certification of officers in charge of a navigational watch on ships of 500 gross tonnages or above.
An integrated bridge simulation system is primarily designed and introduced to train and develop potential cadets and officers with the necessary knowledge and skills in properly and correctly stimulating and managing a vessel.
Whereas a new and alternative use of the integrated bridge simulation system has been discussed and proven to be suitable and effective in training and assessing communication skills, especially in contextualizing the practice of the mandatory part of the IMO SMCP, reinforcing the trainees to play different roles in a realistic atmosphere and environment.
A multitude of new methodologhasbeen explored and discussed in recent years in an attempt to approach the training and testing the proficiency of maritime English that meets the International standards laid out in STCW.
Among those trendy guidelines, utilizing integrated bridge simulation system in a bridge activities context is deemed as one of the most effective experiential learning and training methods, which will allow the trainees accustomed to a workplace environment to expand their practice little by little, so that they may communicate and pass messages with confidence when taking up their future jobs onboard.
In the light of many previous discussions in the aspect of using integrated bridge simulation system in maritime English practice, it can be concluded that affirmativeness in the possibilities is obvious.
However, solutions in combining this technology with operational teaching and assessing maritime communications especially with coursework design have not much been referred to. Using the integrated bridge simulation system can assist maritime English teaching, training, and assessing.
Collaborated operation of the system can be of benefit in facilitating communication and maritime English training and practice, as well as enhancing mutual understanding of the navigation customs and culture background among cadets and seafarers from different countries.
SIMULATORS FOR THE TRAINING OF MARITIME ENGLISH
An integrated bridge simulation system is primarily designed and introduced to train and develop potential cadets and officers with the necessary knowledge and skills in properly and correctly handling and managing a vessel. Whereas a new and alternative use of the integrated bridge simulation system has been discussed and proven to be suitable and effective in training and assessing communication skills, especially in contextualizing the practice of the mandatory part of the IMO SMCP, reinforcing the trainees to play different roles in a realistic atmosphere and environment.
It has been decided that most of the scenarios and contents in SMCP can be flexibly designed or tailored and properly practiced in an integrated bridge simulation system based environment. The key task then is how to organize and implement the syllabus of Maritime English teaching and learning via this effective learning by pedagogic methodology(The discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education).
From past few years, there have been many discussions regarding an attempt to approach the training and testing the proficiency of Maritime English that meets the international standards pointed out in STCW. Using integrated bridge simulation system in a bridge activities context seems to be one of the most effective experiential learning and training methods, which will allow the future Deck Officers to get accustomed to a workplace environment and to expand their practice little by little, so that they may communicate and pass messages with confidence when taking up their future jobs onboard.
Taking into account many discussions regarding the use of integrated bridge simulation system in Maritime English practice, it can be concluded that affirmativeness in the possibilities is obvious. However, solutions in combining this technology with operational teaching and assessing maritime communications especially with coursework design have not much been referred to. Using the integrated bridge simulation system can assist Maritime English teaching, training, and assessing.
Collaborated operation of the system can be of benefit in facilitating communication and Maritime English training and practice, as well as enhancing mutual understanding of the navigation customs and cultural background among cadets and seafarers from different countries.
ROLE OF THE INSTRUCTOR AND THE WAY OF INSTRUCTIONS
During the simulator classes, the instructors should also be using different scenarios where a proper Maritime English should be used. The instructor who supervises the scenarios should initially allow the students to familiarize with the instruments and controls found on the bridge of a merchant ship. The student should then be able to locate and use the bridge equipment in normal operating conditions.
The exercises should get more and more difficult and the students get accustomed with the procedures used for turning on the navigation equipment. Every exercise should be preceded by a briefing and followed by a group discussion - debriefing, in which the actions and decisions taken by the student are analyzed and it is important to mention that these discussions are performed in English.
During exercises, every student should play different roles within the bridge team and will have the possibility of taking part in all the operations done during the watch, covering all the steps in the chain of command of the navigational bridge and in this way also getting acquainted with all the aspects of a proper communication performed in Maritime English on the bridge and during a navigational watch.
The purpose of these exercises is to achieve the following goals:
• Familiarization with the use of instruments and controls from the navigational bridge;
• The ability to make decisions;
• Organizing the bridge/engine team;
• Understanding the individual role in the chain of command while working in a team;
• Understanding the specific tasks according to certain situations;
• Understanding the necessity of a good planning, following step by step the checklists, and the scheduling of each specific procedure;
• Good understanding of the watchkeeping procedures;
• Getting the expertise in identifying the operational problems and solving them;
• Familiarizing with communication in Maritime English.
Nowadays most maritime education and training institutes have installed integrated bridge simulation systems, based on which maritime teaching and training have been designed and experimented. In response to these changes, course and syllabus design and organization as well as instruction and evaluation have thus undergone reforms since the attention of simulator training has been particularly drawn to.
Maritime English course design and organization is critically important throughout the whole training program. It ought to take into account the emphasis IMO guidelines on ship management lays in the need for good communication. The major concepts and skills with this aspect are: Understanding culture differences; Situational awareness; Close loop communication; Briefing and Debriefing; and Communication procedures. Effective communications are an essential ingredient to safe and efficient ship operations.
Communication can be achieved in many ways but the main method for operational communications is through speech. And when in an operational situation such as berthing a ship or fighting a fire, it is vitally important that those involved can communicate effectively.
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