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Rule Making - Choice, join in the process or only follow the outcome

5 June, 2011

Whether or not we like it, STCW along with other standards, minimum or otherwise are here to stay. As often commented seafarers’ voices are missing in the making of the rules. However, seafarers can join organizations and have their views put forward through them. Technology provides "sailing seafarers" the opportunity shape the environment in which they work. Ships most have yet to sign up to and embark on.

By its very nature successful seafaring requires people who can get the job done whatever the weather keeping the people, ship, cargo and environment safe. However, we all know that the quick fix or work around must now be permanently repaired and not left based on “it works.”

In all industries or families, there is the generation gap that with the advent of technology grows ever wider. Dry land sailors must and to some extent are reaching out more effectively to those who venture on the waters of the world.

Likewise, all must create a much higher media profile for the industry and public imagination than presently exists. Something that it has allowed to fade from the days of adventure on the high seas which having weathered the storm has settled into something routine that goes on out of sight and out of mind. Reversal of this mindset will not be easy. However, a course to correct this offset must be steered by seafarers if they want to have a have a say. The long bygone days of mighty ships prominent in what were the centers of commerce, small by today’s yardsticks, transformed by maritime trade into the huge centers of urban life that they are today are in the past, and will remain so. Docklands and ports have fallen into disuse. Some now boast marinas and taverns for relatively small elements of society. How many such places have made the effort to put on display their past glories for the education and enjoyment of all? With the multimedia world of today, this would be a fascinating undertaking but who wants to fund it?

Airlines have their STCWs. Do we see the same antipathy there as exists in the marine world against their rules and regulations? Their media profile is away higher. The ships of the sky are seen and directly utilized daily by millions of Joe Publics keeping them very much in the mind’s eye and consciousness.

Pre maritime STCW we communicated by ship through letters either hand written or bashed out on communal typewriters to school children through ship adoption schemes. Today technology affords us the ability to do so, so much more easily than in the past. Rather than adopt a ship, individual Seafarers could go along to schools in their neighbourhood or those that educated them and adopt them. Imagine what better way to improve what in my day was geographical knowledge when combined with classes being able to follow at least part of the voyages virtually live on AIS. It would also provide insights into the flow of goods moving from one nation to another. There is much more and such linkages would do much to lift the profile of the indispensable maritime trade not only in children but also in the generation of parents that through technology missed it. Those old salts turned landlubbers could do likewise with tales of “how it was in my day.”

Use the technology of today to educate those developing into the next generation to educate their past generation of the fantastic industry we work in and through it, seafarers will have a much louder and effective voice in the rules that today and will in the future increasingly govern their working lives.

Think of this, “SEAFARER AMENDMENTS TO STCW.” Would this not be preferable to compromises thrashed out over years of negotiation between flag states and other interested parties taking years to implement thus making them almost redundant before they are universally applied?

Seafarers have it within their grasp and arguably more so today than ever before to be actively involved in shaping rule making. This is can be done as individuals and collectively by actively supporting national and multinational organisation such a The Nautical Institute, IMarEST, the MEPAs (that do a great job already with school children) IFSMA and the likes. All like organisations need much greater support from the grass roots than is currently given. Join now and begin to make a difference.

Changes will continue in every avenue of life not only in the maritime one. You can help shape your future. The question is will you be a No Action Talk Only force or an effective one? Cleary, the decision is yours.

Jim Nicoll


Well written and great points. Even though we focus on the Superyacht industry and crew resource management, it has been, and will be affected by MLC 2006 and STCW 2010 Manila Amendments. 

Last year you would have thought that the MLC 2006 was a state secret, kept away from crew, owners and builders. Even though it had been flying in the breeze since 2006. Now a year before it is to be ratified the industry is making noise.

There are supposedly around 40,000 superyacht crew in the industry some being from shipping, or merchant mariners, yet you do not hear them as much or a voice either.

I am going to post a link to your post on my blog in the hope that your words will catch some interest for crew to take a role in their own future.

Thanks for the great article.

Simon Harvey 
Founder & Program Director Neurons 2 people skills (N2) 

Simon Harvey

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