Is Shipping Ministry trying to destroy Maritime Education in India?
The recent announcement by Union Minister for Shipping G. K. Vasan to lift the ban on new approvals of pre-sea maritime training courses is really a bolt from the blue. Moreover, it is learnt from reliable sources that the Ministry is contemplating on according approval to various engineering colleges to conduct 4-year Marine Engineering programme.
This announcement and contemplation are coming at a juncture when the existing Maritime Training Institutions are finding it extremely difficult to make sea-time arrangements for their students.
This sea-time training is a requirement for successful completion of the degree courses and leading to first level of competency examinations.
In view of these difficulties faced by the Maritime Training Institutions the Shipping Ministry through its important wing the Directorate General of Shipping had imposed various bans to restrict the flooding of training seafarers in the market.
The following are some of the directives issued by the DGS for effectively curbing this menace of increased unemployment of trained seafarers:
1.Excerpts from Training Circular No.6 of 2011 dated 20.06.2011
“Subject: Restricting further increase in the intake for the DNS course- reg.
A recent review of the authorized intake for the one-year pre-sea Diploma in Nautical Science course (DNS), leading to the 3-year B.Sc. (Nautical Science) Degree, undertaken in the Directorate General of Shipping, has revealed that the intake capacity created for the DNS course significantly exceeds availability of the structured shipboard training slots. The structured shipboard Training is essential for appearing in the 2nd Mate examination and the consequential employment of the trainees as 2nd Mates.
A situation has therefore arisen where the candidates who have completed 1-year Diploma in Nautical Science (DNS) are staring at the prospect of unemployment over prolonged periods for want of the Structured Shipboard Training. This is particularly so for a substantial number of candidates who have completed the course in 2010 and reported so even for candidates from prior batches.
In the light of the foregoing, it is decided to freeze the approved intake for the DNS course to the present sanctioned strength until the backlog for Structured Shipboard Training (SST) is reduced to a marginal level. A ban on new approvals/ enhancement of an intake for the DNS course is as such imposed, with an immediate effect. Therefore, until further orders, it is hereby intimated to all concerned that no new applications for new institutes/courses/additional intake of students for DNS course shall be entertained by the Directorate General.”
Subsequently one year later a Training Circular No.4 of 2012 dated June 18, 2012 was issued which states thus:
“After the opening of the maritime training to private sector in 1996-97, there has been mammoth growth in the number of Maritime Training Institutes conducting pre-sea courses, and as on date more than 85 institutes are approved for conducting various pre-sea training courses of both the discipline, i.e. Nautical and Engineering.
A recent review of the approved intake of pre-sea courses against the training berths availability undertaken by the Directorate has revealed that the intake capacity created for pre-sea courses significantly exceeds the training berths available. The large and rapidly growing backlog of trainee officers, who have completed their pre-sea courses but are unable to get the training berths on board ships – a prerequisite for their Certificates of Competency in the entry grade – are a matter of serious concern.
In view of the above, the Director General of Shipping hereby imposes a ban on increase in capacity by restricting new approvals/ increase in intake in all pre-sea courses leading to entry level competency either at the Second Mate level or at the level of MEO Class IV, whether Foreign Going (FG) or Near Coastal Voyage (NCV).
Provided, however, an exemption could be made where a State Government wishes to run such a course.”
A survey conducted by the Directorate revealed that there were more than 3, 700 nautical cadets awaiting sea-time berths. An analysis revealed that this flooding was due to the introduction of DNS course, not only by Indian Maritime University but also by various private maritime training institutes. This unnecessarily warranted the above said ban, by issuing various circulars. This sudden unemployment was attributed to global financial recession leading all shipping companies to lay off their ships. They had also cancelled the orders placed for building new ships.
The present scenario still remains the same.
The shipping industry is still trying to limp back to normalcy. When such is the situation, it is really surprising to learn that the Ministry is planning to open up the floodgates for all the engineering colleges across the country to start Marine Engineering course.
Marine Engineering as such is a specialized profession which demands a lot of dedication, sacrifice and selflessness. Going back in the history of seafaring in India, maritime training was restricted to TSS Dufferin and TS Rajendra as well as Directorate of Maritime Education Training, which were all Government institutions.
Considering the increased requirement of seafarers globally the Government decided to privatize maritime training in the early 1990s. Naturally when the market got flooded with unemployed engineers and navigating officers, it imposed the ban.
When the market is still flooded with unemployed seafarers what is the necessity for not only lifting the ban on the existing institutes but also giving approvals for new engineering colleges to start Marine Engineering training.
This move, obviously, is to satisfy the ever greedy politicians, who all have started various engineering colleges to fill their coffers. Citing the Government’s aspiration to subsequently increase the seafarers to 9% of the world share can only be a distant dream in the prevailing scenario.
Presently the maximum unemployed seafarers are belonging to Nautical Science.By permitting the engineering colleges to conduct Marine Engineering course we will be contributing to unemployed marine engineers also to be roaming about in the streets looking for sea-time.
The DGS is opening up the floodgates once. Then suddenly it is imposing a ban and then re-opening the floodgates again as per the whims and fancies of the unruly politicians, thereby turning the Directorate into the Thuglak Raj. Please save the seafaring community.
The Directorate should have a clear policy with respect to maritime training. The Minister’s aspiration to increase the Indian participation in the global seafaring to 9% can be achieved only when the world economic scenario improves and thereby improving the shipping industry.
The present scenario of the engineering colleges is also pathetic with the mushrooming of engineering colleges. There are neither quality faculty nor quality students. The colleges are unable to produce good engineering graduates. As per the employment agencies’ remarks, only 10% of the engineering graduates passing out from the various engineering colleges are employable. Rest of them have just completed their degree.
Quite a few colleges (engineering as well as arts and science) have recently started MBA programme, as this programme does not come under the purview of AICTE as per the recent court order. Unfortunately most of them have to close down this programme as there are no takers. Since the control is lacking, the quality is not assured. This is the situation of the peer education sector.
The Shipping Minister will have to consider these aspects before taking a decision. Otherwise he will have his hands full and may find it difficult to face the electorate during the election which is round the corner. The Minister will also have to bear the curses of the trained yet unemployed aspiring seafarers.