India Opens Seafarers’ Training Centers After Extended Shutdown

India has told maritime training institutes (MTIs) to resume seafarers’ coaching and training activities as a part of the phased lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

The Directorate General of Shipping (DG Shipping) had suspended seafarers’ training across the country for an indefinite period in late March when infection cases began rising. They have confirmed the move in standard operating procedure (SOP) issued last week that the training centres will start again.

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“The Directorate has now decided to permit operation of post- and pre-sea MTI based on a risk assessment and mitigation methodology detailed in SOP on phase-wise unlocking of training activities at MTI to enable safe resumption of training or teaching activities. All pre-sea MTI can start conduct of practical training after compliance with necessary conditions detailed in [the] SOP, while post-sea can start preparation for the opening of MTI in accordance with [the] SOP for post-sea MTI for the conduct of practical or simulator training pending issuance of [an] addendum to DG Shipping’s order with necessary modifications.” the DG Shipping said.

MTIs will need to ensure that all joiners have a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test, obtained within 48 hours prior to their reporting time, and follow a minimum 14-day isolation period upon joining, before starting the practical sessions.

The advisory stated, “After [the] 14-day quarantine period, MTI may relax the requirements after ensuring that candidates under quarantine do not mix with candidates who have come out of quarantine.”

The SOP also noted that MTIs will have to carry out on-site courses with one-third of the normal number of students, ostensibly to ensure social distancing norms. However, training institutes located in a containment zone – where there are active COVID-19 cases – will not be permitted to reopen until such local controls are removed. Similarly, the staff and students of marine academies whose residence is in a COVID-19-affected area will be barred from attending on-site activities.

International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) courses that typically require seafarers to enter the water, won’t be conducted as, due to the lockdown restrictions on the use of swimming pools, training centres will not have the authority to conduct it.

The DG Shipping has suggested that MTIs work in a co-ordinated, hand-to-hand manner in which the students could choose a convenient location for their physical training courses, because of the commuting difficulties caused by limited public transport systems, provided of course that all the infection control steps are strictly enforced.

The notification stated that candidates who have successfully finished the three-tier mechanism of training, which involves e-learning, different virtual classes, practical sessions at the centre, and the exit examination, will be awarded a course completion certificate valid for 18 months. The certificate will be replaced with a regular seafarer certificate upon their completion of the remaining STCW courses after the government allows the reopening of swimming pools.

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