Maritime Training System In India Needs Urgent Reforms And Changes

Couple of years back, I found one ordinary seaman and deck cadet smoking near the break of accommodation, while the ship was loading a cargo of Naphtha, a highly volatile cargo. Before the two of them were sent back home, a detailed investigation revealed 2 things.

  1. Both were unaware that smoking causes risk of fire or explosion
  2. Having committed this act several times at various places on board, their conviction to point 1 was emboldened by the fact that no untoward incident had ever occurred.

I am sure many Senior officers must have come across these kind of crew at some point in their life.

Before the nineties when only a handful of maritime institutions were operated in India, either by the State/Central Govt. or shipping companies. The discipline, the training and the sense of belonging to a particular institute was full of flavour and nostalgia. When Director General of shipping allowed private participation in maritime education and training to cope up with the shortage of seafarers, every Tom, Dick and Harry jumped on the bandwagon when constant flow of money was more than assured. Victim of this leniency was quality in maritime education. Now we have more seafarers than we need, with a large chunk not finding any placement after passing out their twin semesters.

Today, the list of Director General of shipping approved Maritime training institute has crossed 125 all over India. A total of 7 Maritime university campus are listed on DGS website. These Maritime institutes are subject to a comprehensive inspection programme by organizations, mainly classification societies authorized by DGS. After each Comprehensive Inspection Process (CIP), these organizations rate the institute from B2 to A1. B2 being the least and A1 the highest rating being given to an institute based on the requirements met by the institute and set by Director General of Shipping.

Readers can actually get comprehensive details on the ratings of these maritime institutes, and other details related to maritime training on the government website. However, don’t get fooled by these ratings. While some institutes live up to the standards and justify their ratings, some are much below par to the rating allotted to them. Naturally, bribery, corruption or gratuity has something to do to put wool over our eyes. Organizations are not corrupt, but the people working in them are. So when these corrupt officials carry out a faulty CIP in a maritime institute, the results can be disastrous.

The other line of corruption starts with the maritime universities under whose umbrella the respective institutes have to function. Imagine the expression on my face when one of my students with a less than 75% college attendance, walks out of the examination hall in half time, answering only 2 out of seven questions and confident of failing, passes, when university results are declared. There are hundreds of cases like of this boy and I can imagine the safety of the vessel when they go on board.

marine engineer
Image for representation purpose only. Credits:

Senior Indian ship officers today are frustrated with the quality of cadets employed by shipping companies. A lot of boys from rural areas can hardly speak or write fluent English, an asset which distinguishes us from the rest of the non-English speaking world. An asset which is a requisite in a multinational crew environment. Frankly readers will be surprised to note that these boys are lured by some institute’s staff when they are appearing for their qualifying examinations. A rosy picture of the institute is painted in front of them and not knowing anything about this profession, the glamorous life of world tour and fancy salaries traps them in, unmindful of the hardships that they are accustomed to.

Much of this deterioration in quality of maritime education also comes from the faculty employed by the training institution. A lot of Maritime training institution employ officers from Indian navy who have limitations in teaching nautical or marine engineering subjects. They draw a handsome pension and are also paid an equivalent salary as paid to a Merchant navy Master or Chief engineer. I personally find this grossly unjust and perhaps this is one of the reasons Senior Masters or Chief engineers are hesitant to embrace teaching as a profession.

Merchant navy officers earning decent salary on board ship will rarely settle for 1/10th of their post-tax paid salary equivalent to one being paid to Indian navy officers pension. Here I forgot to mention that salaries paid to faculty is directly proportional to the institute rating in most cases. I know a friend who was denied salary for nearly 14 months as a principal and he had to take legal action against the institute to recover his dues. Can you expect quality training from such institutes?

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Image for representation purpose only

After every few years, seafarers are required to upgrade their certificates. Now this is interesting. First STCW 95 and now STCW 2010, comes into force. Broadly the idea is to enhance and upgrade knowledge of seafarers. But what most institutes do is upgrade the certificates for a hefty fee. Because the number of junior officers is swelling, Institutes are literally singing with money pouring in from all quarters. The seats are restricted by DGS for each course for each institute therefore these limited seats cause officers to travel in all directions to upgrade their STCW2010 certificates in the shortest possible time and sometimes on same dates they book several courses. Some institutes are just too willing to comply.

Naturally with so many candidates in line and few faculty, Institutes must hire more faculty. Good merchant navy faculty is rare so don’t be surprised if you find Navy divers conducting Security officer courses and navy petty officers conducting Proficiency in survival craft and rescue boats. DGS requires a valid or expired DCE on your license, valid or expired. It matters little if you were a Master / Chief engineer on oil tanker 2 decades ago but still fit to teach courses for tanker familiarization. Who cares if Director General of shipping is strict about attendance. Records in institutes (or at sea) are easily fudged. Faculty with a restriction of maximum 18 hours / week is made to slog for additional hours. All this leads to “ZERO” value enhancement in knowledge and STCW 2010 is reduced to a mere paper exercise.

© filigor – / Image for representation purpose only


Director General of shipping has been issuing show cause notices to institutes who violate the norms but rarely does Director General of shipping takes firm and concrete action for non-compliance. If found guilty of bribing, false documentation, luring candidates to fill empty seats, these institutes should be banned forever and their license cancelled. The unions in India are toothless when it concerns shore based employment for merchant navy officers. Certificate of service was long ago banned but these officers still infringe on jobs which rightfully belongs to Merchant navy. Due to this gross injustice, quality Merchant navy officers will stay away and the fate of good quality Maritime education will hang on a balance tilted more towards greedy Maritime institutions.

Not all is lost though. Some A1 grade institutes run by Reputed shipping companies maintain the standards and their cadets are in demand and these institutes ensure 100 percent placements for their cadets. They remain the first choice of new entrants and I have often seen a sense of pride and belonging among the cadets of these institutes. Since one bad cadet is enough to change the perception of the entire world towards us, it is very essential that the Government bodies entrusted to ensure compliance are strict in both word and action. After all no one wants any accident on board.

What is actually missing in this whole scenario is implementation.

For instance:

Director General of Shipping should ensure

  • That all private institutes must be audited by at least two agencies.
  • Accounts of each private institute must be audited by an audit firm suggested by Director General of Shipping. This will ensure that some profits are spent on cadets welfare and their constant grooming as future seafarers.
  • Indian Navy officers drawing Pension + salary paid by institute should equal the salary paid to a Master Mariner or a Chief Engineer. This will attract good Masters / Chief engineers to the field of education.
  • Only reputed and forthright Auditors should be used for Comprehensive inspection programs (CIP).
  • Monitor behaviours and lifestyles of their local Mercantile Marine Department surveyors, when there is a strong possibility of Institutes influencing these officers through cash and kind.
  • Constantly monitor attrition of Faculty from institute. A large attrition will surely ring some warning bells.
  • Lastly, run a small feedback section on their website for all seafarers.

Over to you..

What according to you should be done to improve the quality of education and seafarers?

Let’s know in the comments below.

You may also like to read – 4 Areas Maritime Education and Research Industry Should Consider Without Fail

Disclaimer: The authors’ views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Insight. Data and charts, if used, in the article have been sourced from available information and have not been authenticated by any statutory authority. The author and Marine Insight do not claim it to be accurate nor accept any responsibility for the same. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader.

The article or images cannot be reproduced, copied, shared or used in any form without the permission of the author and Marine Insight

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About Author

Capt.Pankaj Bhargava is a Master Mariner who retired from active sea life in the year 2012. He has sailed on almost all types of vessels in a career spanning more than 35 years. Presently teaching in Maritime institutes and loves writing for e-magazines for the benefit of seafaring community.

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  1. Above article well articulates the woes of the training system. And agree fully with the views expressed in it.

    Apart from training systems I believe more important is the screening of the trainees across the board both for officers and ratings. Unlike before today the intake requirements have been diluted to a large extent. Hence if the input itself us bad how can any amount of training drastically change the output? The growth of the training institutes is a recent phenomenon.

    Hence the next and very important part of training is the on board training. This too has been diluted coupled with much lesser seatime requirements have had a drastic effect on the quality of seafarers.

    Summary: If we have to get better quality these 3 issues require to addressed ie. Proper intake, seatime and in board training and training institutes

  2. Respectfully,In my openion author have misconception about Ex Navy personnel in shipping.Certificate of service is no more issued and it was never valid to serve in foreign flag ships.Majority of Ex. Navy personnel serving foreign flag as well as Indian flag vessels with proper lisences.They are not employed at the strength of Navy service.Why attach pension for settlement of shipping pay.Yes, I agree there are very few they hold old certificate of service are sailing or employed in shipping training institutes.Further certificates of service was issued only to comissioned offficers of Navy not to Navy sailor or Artificers.Majority of Ex navy are not from comissioned ranks but from sailors.So it is not fair to generalize to attach pension for settlement of shipping pay for Ex. Navy.
    2.Indian Navy is Indian Armed Force,service to the nation,given creamy and productve portion of the life to service of nation.Shipping is opening to very few lucky ones.Do they not deserve bit more than regular shippies who start hefty earning from the childhood.
    So the suggestion of merging Naval pension with shipping pay is funny and I strongly oppose.

  3. I fully agree with Mr D K Sinha. Ex navy sailors they are severing for the nation first then for there family & lastly for money for which he gets pension which as good as must understand that your wisdom & wealth is intact & your sleeping inside your home peacefully just because of arm forces alert on border.
    Indian navy sailors are getting pension because they get very less salary during active service.where as they handle more responsibilities with discipline punctuality & honesty which is not found in any of the filled at all after paying ample because of this they get first preference in all other industries too.One should not keep eye on pension of naval person who has severed for nation & not only for his family.

    I strongly feel that shipping persons also should get pension like naval persons after there retirement
    & should be paid as per central government salary structure through out there service.


  4. Dear Sir,
    your comments about the Maritime Training in India are interesting. An overhaul of the system is the need of the hour. i have few suggestions that may find favor from you and the shipping fraternity. The placement must be assured before a candidate is taken in any training institute particularly at pre sea stage, this will reduce the rampant malpractices noted and reported by yourself.
    Regarding the faculty employed by the institutes,various levels of training at the pre and post stages of a seafarers career requires varying level of caliber of faculty. The remuneration and suitability of faculty must also be part of DGS’s responsibility for selection and approval. With out proper faculty and adequate remuneration an institute must be given approval.
    The institutes not able to ensure placement must be given approval in any case to clean up the mess as it exists.
    i have been actively engaged in training during various stages of my career from 1996-2000 when all STCW 95 Courses were introduced and am Post Graduate from WMU specialized in Maritime Education and Training. Iiam actively involved in Training for last four years. Am pained to see the sad plight of my profession deteriorating and decaying due to the greed of the institutes and unrealistic policies of the Administration.
    Trust you will find my views worth considering for comments and observations.
    Capt. Praveen Kumar

  5. Word “not” is to be added at various sentences which was omitted due to over sight. Line Eleven and twelve should must not be given approval. Regret inconvenience. Regards Capt. Praven Kumar

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