PHC Adapts to Changing Technology, Regulations

 

October 2012

 

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Seafaring is changing throughout the world, and the SIU is taking steps to ensure its members will continue to thrive in an ever-evolving industry.

 

Key to that strategy are the educational offerings at the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education (PHC). Gathered at the school’s Piney Point, Md. campus for their annual meeting on Sept. 13, the PHC’s advisory board heard from a variety of government officials, union officials and major shipping representatives about the changing industry and what the school needs to do to continue meeting those new challenges.

 

“Most of the suggestions and recommendations they make at these meetings help us develop a better curriculum,” SIU President Mike Sacco said at the start of the meeting. “We have to change with the needs of the industry. If we can’t meet those needs we’re not going to survive.”

 

SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez told the industry leaders they should consider the SIU and the school a partner when it comes to crewing ships with well-trained seafarers and making sure they reach ports on time. In short, they’re all in the same boat.

 

“Use us like you would use any other business asset,” he said. “We want to make sure that what we are doing is meeting your needs. We’d like to identify where we’re missing and see if we can correct that.”

 

As the meeting continued, it became clear there were quite a few industry changes on the horizon.

 

Deputy Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, for one, said the administration would “challenge the industry” to start churning out more engineers. He introduced a new model that would require trainees to spend 45 days on an RFF ship.

 

“We think it’s a win-win for everyone,” he said. “We get folks who are familiar with the ships we operate; you get an opportunity to get a trial run of those electricians.”

 

As ship technology continues to change, Jaenichen added, additional training will be required. And that’s where the SIU and its union-affiliated school come in.

 

“We need to create more qualified mariners in the jobs we need,” he said. “This is how to work with the industry to help us get where we need to go.”

 

When it comes to organizing courses for such training at maritime schools, the National Maritime Center (NMC) is making large strides, said NMC Mariner Training and Assessment Division Chief Robert Smith.

 

“If we work together on this we come out with the perfect mariner,” Smith said, adding the NMC is focusing on keeping up to date with the latest technology. “The only rule constant in the universe is change – and we have to embrace it.”

 

He added the NMC’s credentialing process is being streamlined to provider a better, online-centered user interface that results in shorter processing periods and better access to information.

 

“This is an ongoing task,” he said. “We continue in stride to get better at what we do.”

 

Mayte Medina, chief of the Coast Guard’s Maritime Personnel Qualifications Division, provided insight into what upcoming changes tied to the 2010 STCW Amendments and the International Labor Organization’s recently ratified Maritime Labor Convention, 2006 will mean to the industry. The Manila Amendments and the MLC 2006 provide increased seafarer rights internationally, but Medina said it’s still too early to identify what exact changes in policy and training must be made. The Manila Amendments are at the beginning of a five-year transitional period and the MLC, 2006 doesn’t go into effect until August of 2013.

 

Medina said the Coast Guard has yet to set a definitive policy on either.

 

“We don’t have any authority at this stage to cut any certificate,” Medina said of the Manila Amendments. “Once a person comes back to renew in five years (when the transitional period ends) we will ask them to prove they met those requirements.”

 

As for the MLC 2006, Medina said, the Coast Guard is drafting a policy that will help U.S.-flag ships avoid unnecessary delays at foreign ports.

 

“We’re drafting a policy as we speak. …so everybody knows how we comply on a particular vessel,” Medina said. “It’s going to be very, very, very soon.”

 

PHC Training Director J.C. Wiegman added the school will be ready when that happens.

 

“We’re moving forward,” he said. “We are submitting our courses to the National Maritime Center while the regulatory agencies work toward the final rule.”

 

Military Sealift Command (MSC) Training Director Richard Egan said his organization was also preparing for changes.

 

“Our training requirements have doubled,” he said. “It’s astronomical all the pressure being put on mariners and companies to meet all of these requirements.”

 

After listening to what changes may need to be made in future curriculum, officials with the PHC shared the changes in policy and curriculum the school already made. PHC instructor Tom Truitt discussed the school’s path from unlicensed apprentice to deck and engine programs, adding that changes would be made at various stages to keep up with new industry standards. Truitt said there would be further emphasis on health awareness and actual sea time.

 

“The biggest changes will be the total number of assessments and the requirements of those assessments needed,” Truitt said. “We’re hoping we’ll produce a better sailor out there.”

 

Engineering instructor Jay Henderson added the school will continue to have an exceptionally comprehensive engineering program in an attempt to keep up with new technology and meet the demands of the industry.

 

Changes are also coming to the Seafarers Management Information System on the SIU website. SIU Secretary- Treasurer David Heindel said officials are looking to enhance the member portal and increase the ease of scheduling exams. He asked those in attendance to explore the site and offer their suggestions.

 

“If there are tweaks we need to make we need to know that so the system can work for you as well as our mariners,” Heindel said. “I encourage everybody on the ship owner side to let us know what we can do better.”

 

Re-emphasizing the need to stay informed of the needs of the industry, officials encouraged the industry leaders and government officials in attendance to sign up for a variety of subcommittees to delve further into particular issues. Those groups will exchange ideas through emails, phone calls and meetings over an extended period of time.

 

By the end of the Sept. 13 advisory board meeting, the subcommittee sign-up sheets were largely full.

“The subcommittees are extremely important. When you sign up with these working groups you’re providing a service,” said John Mason, CEO of American Service Technology Inc. “We’re going to have people who know how to work on these things.”

 

The industry will continue to change, Mason added, and the PHC is determined to stay ahead of those changes.

 

“There are a lot of things moving along and they’re all interconnected,” he said. “We’re going to attempt to do something (about it).”

 

 


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