Crew Training: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

21 October 2014 By Hillary Hoffower

“Experience at sea still speaks volumes; however, trainingis a must to ensure safe practices are upheld,” commented one member in Dockwalk’s crew training poll, in which76 percent of respondents believe that crew training should be mandatory.

For 62 percent of respondents, training is the mark of atrue professional and they are excited to further their career. Twenty-sixpercent think training is over-regulated and that too much of it is required,while six percent think it’s not bad, but a necessary evil.

Such split attitudes beg the question — are crew trainingstandards high enough?

“No. I think they could improve and I feel a lot of thetraining courses out there are just for mass production and not necessarily forthe true benefits of a crewmember,” said one chief stew. “More practicaltraining is required with a suitable time frame. I hate the ‘zero to hero’philosophy and always feel that one should have adequate on-the-job experienceand not just certificates saying they’ve completed a course.”

Belief that courses contain limited learning certainly seemsto be a trend among respondents. One captain claims that “courses are geared topassing the exam and little else,” and another captain writes, “The crew thatcomes out of training are normally incompetent. The teachers pass thepracticals even if failure happens.”

While the majority of respondents think that crew trainingstandards could be higher, not all is lost.  One chief stew considers crew training to be awork in progress, and a few others either think it depends or are happy withthe standards, albeit with minor tweaks.

“Yes, but [they] need to [be] more consistent and review[ed]more frequently,” remarks a first officer.

Only two percent of respondents don’t see any issues withtraining today, but for most, there are problems that need to be addressed. Thebiggest issues include the need for personnel management training for seniorcrew (10 percent), the need for more of an emphasis on safety training (10percent), that training is performed in a classroom rather than a real setting(11 percent) and a lack of seamanship skills (15 percent). The leading concern?Cost, according to 50 percent of respondents.

“How is one going to start in this career if you have tohave two or three classes that cost [more than] a thousand dollars?” asks achief stew/first mate.

Expenses certainly can be a concern for some, as 68 percentof respondents pay for training out of pocket. Fifteen percent split a portionof the cost with their boat and for only three percent it’s part of the package(one percent responded other).

Another problem crew usually encounter is finding time tocomplete training. Forty-seven percent of respondents take time off their jobor between jobs to get it done, 24 percent train during their vacation, 18percent are given time to train by their captain and nine percent train duringrefit.

In fact, fifteen percent of respondents said that timing iseverything when asked what they look for in training. Three percent rely onlocation, 26 percent look for a combination of location and price and 35percent look for the best qualifications possible (21 percent cited other).

Price, or value for money, and timing were both frequentlymentioned when respondents were asked how today’s training can be improved. Otherpopular answers touched upon the quality of learning and having more hands-onexperience.

“Many of the training programs are too short and tooshallow. This means that newly qualified crew think they have a complete graspof what the subject is, but the truth is they have only scratched the surfaceand unless they progress they will never learn any more,” maintains onecaptain. “All crew should have a training record book that follows themthroughout their career. Owners could help with salary increments andqualifications.”

One deckhand adds that there should be “increased emphasison seamanship skills and more structured onboard learning.”

While most hold a positive view toward the idea of crew training,it’s safe to say that training today could undergo some advancements —according to members atleast. What do you think?