Captain Sambhi of the tanker Jag Laxmi.
Photo by Oneeighteen

In October of last year the Shipping & Transport College of Rotterdam held the International Maritime English Conference. A key topic of debate was the IMO’s current review of the STCW Convention and its focus on global assessment goals for non-native english speakers. This is of particular concern considering the growing shortage of qualified mariners combined with the unusually high incident rate seen in recent months.

Clive Cole of World Maritime University and Peter Trenkner of Wismar University have proposed implementing a Yardstick “against which student performance can be measured while at the same time providing goals for the tasks and requirements of the seaboard ranks”. Here is the plan as laid out in their position paper:

>The Yardstick >


>When developing the Yardstick below the authors deliberately did not include the identification of Maritime English communication requirements of the different shipboard rating ranks, i.e. the STCW95 Support Level, but restricted themselves to the personnel covered by the STCW95 Operational and Management Level educated and trained at higher MET institutions. >



>The shipping industry, however, may wish to have a Yardstick available for shipboard rating ranks, too. In this case an appendix would need to be developed together with the industry as the Maritime English requirements set out in the STCW95 (Part A, Chapter II, Table A-II/4 and A-III/4) regarding ratings are comparatively vague and need to be considered in the review of STCW95. >



>Furthermore, requirements concerning general English language proficiency have not been included > >expressis verbis > > as in the authors’ understanding a certain command of general English is a basic prerequisite in this respect (cf IMO SMCP 2002). >



> >






































































>YARDSTICK OF MARITIME ENGLISH COMPETENCY FOR SHIPS OFFICERS > > >




>Band >




>Definition >




>Descriptor >




>YARDSTICK OF MARITIME ENGLISH COMPETENCY FOR SHIPS OFFICERS > > >




>Band >




>Definition >




>Descriptor >




> 9 >




>Expert User >



>(Senior > >Navigation > >Officers/ Senior > >Engineer > >Officers/Masters) >




>Has a full command of Maritime English as to safe > >navigation, technical ship operation, emergency > >management, cargo handling and administration; meets > >fully all the Maritime English requirements as laid down > >in STCW 1978/95. Communicates fluently on radio > >complying with the Radio Regulations, is fully > >conversant with the IMO-SMCP and uses them flexibly > >when the addressee gives reason to apply them. Expert in > >the use of glossaries/dictionaries, and seldom needs aids > >when reading IMO and other documents or handling > >professional correspondence. Unhindered when leading > >meetings, even controversial ones, with other officers, > >crew, authorities, services and outsiders. Able to develop > >personal skills to include the instructions of others in the > >use of the English language on board. >




> 8 >




>Very Good User >



>(Senior > >Navigation > >Officers/ Senior > >Engineer > >Officers/Masters) >




>A command of Maritime English approaching that of the > >expert user in safe navigation, technical ship operation, > >emergency management, cargo handling and some > >administrative tasks; meets fully the Maritime English > >requirements as laid down in STCW 1978/95. Copes well > >even with demanding and complex language situations, > >whether in oral or printed/written form, with only rare > >uncertainties and minor lapses in accuracy, fluency, > >appropriateness and discourse which do not affect > >communication. Communicates fluently on radio > >complying with the Radio Regulations. Fully conversant > >with the IMO-SMCP. Gives clear and sufficient orders in > >all situations connected with job and rank. Able to > >develop personal skills to include the instruction of others > >in the use of the English language on board up to band 6. >




> 7 >




>Good User >



>(Junior > >Navigation > >Officers/ Junior > >Engineer > >Officers) >



> >



> >



>Minimum required > >for certification as > >Chief Officer >




>Uses Maritime English effectively but may need to take > >special care in complex and difficult situations; meets the > >Maritime English requirements as laid down in STCW > >1978/95. Communicates well enough on radio complying > >with the Radio Regulations. A few lapses in accuracy, > >fluency, appropriateness and discourse and in conveying > >or comprehending the content of a message, but > >communication is effective, consistent and unmistakable. > >Conversant with the IMO-SMCP. Can give clear and > >succinct > >o > >rd > >ers > >t > >o > >r > >ating > >s > >Understan > >d > >s > >w > >ritten > >and > >succinct orders to ratings. Understands written and > >spoken instructions in how to use, maintain and repair > >equipment. Any lack in Maritime English skills does not > >hinder safe ship operations. Able to draft the messages, > >reports and letters required for ship business occasionally > >using dictionaries, glossaries and/or correspondence > >guidelines. >




> 6 >




>Competent User >



>(Junior > >Navigation > >Officers/ Junior > >Engineer > >Officers) >



> >



>Minimum required > >for certification as > >OOW/EOW >



> >




>Uses Maritime English with confidence in moderately > >difficult situations; meets basically the Maritime English > >requirements as laid down in STCW 1978/95. Noticeable > >lapses in accuracy, fluency, appropriateness and > >discourse that may lead to difficulties in complex > >situations. Communication is effective on most > >occasions. Can communicate on radio under the > >supervision of senior officers applying selected standard > >phrases and occasionally using manuals in order to > >comply with the Radio Regulations. Speaks, reads and > >writes Maritime English sufficiently well for ship > >operations. Is familiar with the IMO-SMCP. Competent > >use of language in giving and executing orders. Able to > >respond competently in emergencies. Able to > >comprehend nautical/engineering publications. Able to > >write up logbook without causing misunderstandings. >




> 5 >




>Effective User >



>(Assistant > >Navigation > >Officers/Assistant > >Engineer > >Officers) >




>Uses the language independently and effectively in all > >familiar and moderately difficult situations. Can read and > >pronounce the IMO-SMCP applicable to the working > >sphere. Frequent lapses in accuracy, fluency, > >appropriateness and discourse, but usually succeeds in > >communicating. Basically abilities as at band 6 but > >permitted to act only under constant supervision. > >Effective use of Maritime English in giving and carrying > >out orders. >




> 4 >




>Modest User >



> >




>Uses basic range of Maritime English, sufficient for > >familiar and non-pressure situations. Many lapses in > >accuracy, fluency, appropriateness and discourse that > >restrict continual communication so that frequent efforts > >and guidance are needed to ensure that the > >communicative intention is achieved. Renders the > >minimum level required to follow specialist instruction in > >Maritime English using the IMO-SMCP. Able to ask and > >answer basic questions referring to the vessel, its cargo, > >equipment and machinery. Can pass on distress/urgency > >and safet > >y > > messa > >g > >es and ask for assistance in cases of > >emergency using the relevant IMO-SMCP. >




> 3 >




>Limited User >



> >




>Can communicate using sentences and questions. > >Problems in accuracy, fluency, appropriateness and > >discourse so that communication frequently breaks down > >or is difficult to maintain. Understands and executes > >orders from the IMO-SMCP for basic shipboard needs > >such as general emergency drills, person over board, and > >standard wheel/engine orders. Can speak about basic > >duties on board. >




> 2 >




>Intermittent > >User >



> >




>Uses a very limited range of Maritime English. Adequate > >for basic needs and simple situations. Able to verbalize > >and understand such items as names and ranks, ship’s > >name and certain specifications of the vessel and/or its > >machinery. Can look up basic phrases from the IMO- > >SMCP but uses them inflexibly. Can ask for help and > >assist officers directing passengers in different situations, > >particularly in cases of drills or emergencies. >




> 1 >




>Non User >




>Uses a few words or phrases such as common greetings. > >Capacity limited to elementary listening and reading > >skills. Recognises notices and signs within the working > >sphere but has difficulty in interpreting the information > >into action. At the lowest level, recognises which > >language is being used. Should not be admitted as > >Navigation Officer Cadet/Engineer Officer Cadet without > >prior pre-sea Maritime English training. >




> > >

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