I, and I am sure many other masters, now have to use a large proportion of time previously allocated to such important training to undertake security drills required by the ISPS Code and anti-pollution training required, in particular by the United States. The old “board of trade sports day” once given for LSA/FFA training is no longer enough to cover all these issues and the time has come for legislators to require shipowners to set aside a proportion of seafarers working time to undertake everything which is now necessary. Most union agreements with shipowners still require such periods of training to be “unpaid” which is not fair when one considers that a realistic allocation of a seafarer’s time for all training requirements would be in excess of 4 hours.
Unless the proper amount of time is allocated for each of these important issues, we should not expect seafarers to become proficient in any particular skill such as lifeboat handling.
The Maritime Advisory Board believed this issue might best be addressed by a Flag Administration and therefore asked the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency to comment. They responded as follows:
“Whilst the frequency of traditional drills such as emergency and muster drills are and remain regulated the evolving safety culture has with time introduced additional drills and training requirements some of which are ship/type specific and others which are more generic in nature, e.g. rescue from an enclosed space drills, pollution drills etc. In parallel the practice of setting prescriptive regulation has shifted somewhat towards that of fostering safety through a goal setting approach with the onus placed on the owner/operator using safety management tools such as the ISM Code and ongoing safety training.
In the past neither the time allocated to training and drills, nor the content of the drills has been specified; this being left to the judgement of the Masters in light of the competence and experience of the officers and crew on the vessel at the time. Also given the shift in emphasis, the diverse nature of onboard training coupled with the wide variety of ship types and size, crew numbers etc. it is not realistic to prescribe the duration of drills or the time set aside for training.
In a well found ship it would be expected that there is some form of training/drill schedule as part of the ISM system that is specific to the requirements of that ship or type of ship. This would be supplemented with guidance on the maximum time between drills and the type or nature of the exercise/training. Post drill de-briefs and positive feedback should then indicate whether the training needs have been met or alternatively indicate where improvements need to be considered and/or whether additional time or frequency needs to be allocated to that area of training.”