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Training issues

I have written the following based on my recent years experience as a 2/O with regards to ECDIS.

During my 5 years at sea I have seldom sailed with Officers who posses the generic ECDIS training and never with anyone who has the specific training, whilst still sailing on every vessel with it used as either the primary or secondary means of navigation. I am very fortunate to be a part of the technological generation and to receive training in nearly all aspects of changing systems on the navigational bridge. I feel very comfortable on a bridge with screens and no paper, however I begin to become nervous at the abilities/understanding of others. I have identified this as the following 2 reasons.

1. Training
2. Understanding the training

The first one is obvious and one which has already raised much debate and appears to me to be a constant battle of "who is going to pay?' Whilst the majority of new Officers now have this included in their OOW training it is still very difficult for everyone to gain the training in the specific systems in use due to availability. I appreciate the requirement for re-validation to include ECDIS training has been introduced, but this further gives rise to my second issue.

Attending a course in this day and age does not render that person competent as the certificate states. During my cadet ship, and I am sure all other Officers of the Watch, if I could not produce the required standard in the chart work exam I failed. This meant further training and reexamination. The chart work exam was hard and required the up most of attention and detail. I am yet to hear of anyone failing the generic ECDIS training. It is my opinion that in the latest politically correct of years I have not been challenged in thought by any exam since finishing my OOW, not because I know everything but more because the exams are not designed to (this does not include CoC, merely ancillary courses). I would be happy to say that the majority of exams I have taken in recent years could have been passed without attending the course. Whilst I do not want to be seen as attacking training companies I do understand the profit that can be made and the requirement for Officers to posses these certificates. It is due to this that I believe attending an ECDIS training course does not mean understanding ECDIS.

I would like to propose 2 solutions to potentially improve the situation. Firstly, examinations are not something that are designed to be easy unless you have a COMPLETE understanding of the topic in question. I feel they need to be made to challenge the student so much so, that without this understanding the student fails and is required to retrain and be reexamined until deemed competent. This is the way with a Master Mariner conducting orals and should be no different across the industry.

Secondly, the greatest number of experienced ECDIS personnel are at sea. Why can we not accredit these people as ECDIS certified Trainers? This would mean training can be conducted at sea and in port, the Officer will be more employable, greater trained and empowered, and the cost of training would be reduced dramatically. If this training can be conducted in the office by someone who has never been to sea, with the correct implementation and management why can't this be given by someone who does use it and knows how to use it?

These of course are my own personnel thoughts and feeling to the situation, but with ECDIS rushing into service I feel the training is left far behind and something needs to be done.

I would welcome other peoples experiences and opinions.