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STCW mariners to receive mandatory leadership training

Jul 31, 2014 10:55 AM
Capt. Scott Conway facilitates a leadership and communications course for management-level mariners at the Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies in Maryland. The course soon will be mandatory for all senior officers sailing under a STCW endorsement.

(Dom Yanchunas photo)

Capt. Scott Conway facilitates a leadership and communications course for management-level mariners at the Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies in Maryland. The course soon will be mandatory for all senior officers sailing under a STCW endorsement.

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In a conference room surrounded by a half-dozen captains and mates, Capt. Scott Conway leads a discussion of leadership needs aboard their vessels — and what can go wrong when communication is poor.

Conway notes that the consequences of leadership failures in the maritime industry are often “written in blood or oil.” He emphasizes lessons from admired leaders including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Lou Holtz. Earning trust and staying positive are critical to inspiring crews, he says.

“Praise in public. Admonish in private,” Conway tells the gathering. “That carries a lot of weight. ... Very high in terms of motivation and keeping people involved.”

Conway is not a port captain and he’s not giving orders to newly hired officers for any single fleet. He is an instructor and department head at Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduate Studies (MITAGS). He is speaking at a relatively new course – “Management Level: Leadership and Communications.”

All captains, chief mates, chief engineers and second engineers who sail internationally will become familiar with the course soon. As of this year, it’s a requirement under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).

MITAGS, in Linthicum Heights, Md., and its sister institution, Seattle-based Pacific Maritime Institute, have begun offering the instruction as a five-day seminar-based course. Because so many of the participants already will have had years of experience in leadership roles, the sessions include plenty of group discussions about behavior they have observed aboard ship.

In the U.S., the regulation instituting the STCW 2010 Amendments went into effect in March 2014. Existing senior officers will need to take the course by the end of 2016 for their STCW endorsement to remain valid. Operational-level officers — second mates and officers in charge of the navigation watch or engineering watch — are required to take a one-day course called “Leadership and Teamworking Skills” or equivalent.

“This is a major corner we’re turning in STCW training,” said George Trowbridge, owner of Quality Maritime Training in St. Petersburg, Fla. “Literally everyone will have to do the managerial and leadership skills training by the deadline. It’ll be one of the qualifications they’ll have to do if they want the STCW endorsement on their national credential.”

Before this summer, Quality Maritime’s course was called “Management, Communications and Leadership – Management Level,” sometimes abbreviated MCL. The Coast Guard recently began using the name “Leadership and Managerial Skills.”

Mariners renewing their Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) this year are already receiving documents with STCW endorsements that will remain in effect only until the end of 2016, not five years from now. Under the “Limitations” section, the National Maritime Center is adding the notation “Not valid after Dec. 31, 2016.” No further explanation is included.

Many mariners already know about other new STCW training requirements — particularly the basic safety and firefighter refreshers and ECDIS. Those have received a lot of attention at conferences and in the maritime press. Too many licensed officers, however, are still unaware of the leadership-course provision, which hasn’t been discussed as much, except in the union halls, said Andy Hammond, a Massachusetts-based maritime licensing consultant.

“Many mariners that work in sectors where STCW may not be fully required, such as the towing industry, will not fully understand these new requirements,” Hammond said. “There is still a very large population of mariners that wish to hold and maintain their STCW that will not receive updates on these changes unless they are renewing or upgrading their MMCs this year and noting the limitations placed on them.”

Mariners need to realize that they must take an MCL course, even if they don’t need to renew their credential until after 2016. Hammond suggests they plan ahead to ensure that they can schedule the course in plenty of time before the last-minute crunch.

“I recommend exploring options over the next 12 to 18 months and not waiting until 2016 before they start finding out what they need or obtaining the required training,” Hammond said. “2016 could be a busy year.”

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