It’s crunch time for enrolling in STCW engineers’ gap-closing classes

Engineering personnel who sail internationally have less than a year to complete their gap-closing courses, and enrolling isn’t getting any easier.

The Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Manila amendments require that senior officers’ credentials — chief and first engineers — show that they have taken Engine-Room Resource Management (ERM) by Dec. 31, 2016. Lower-level engineering crew need to take Management of Electrical and Electronic Control Equipment (MEECE) by the same date.

Training schools are urging engineers to make sure they enroll as soon as possible. It has been a challenge for the schools to qualify enough trainers to be able to offer the courses on a non-stop basis since becoming aware of the requirements in 2014. 

For example, Houston Marine runs ERM classes twice a month in Kenner, La., and once a month at parent company Falck Safety Services’ location in Houston. The classes are always full, with 20 to 24 enrollees each time. 

“There is a great demand because these courses are requirements by the end of the year or they are going to place restrictions on their licenses and they are not going to be able to sail,” said Shirley Andrews, licensing consultant manager at Houston Marine in Kenner, La. 

The courses, sometimes combined with STCW leadership training, can take about a week. ERM covers organizational teamwork, safety procedures and situational awareness, as well as emerging technologies. MEECE focuses on electrical safety, protective devices and automation, among many other aspects. 

“The premise of this course is to bring all the management-level officers up to speed on preventing accidents,” said Mike Fanning, who teaches ERM at Calhoon MEBA Engineering School. “We try to identify and eliminate these incidents from happening in the first place.”

About 55 percent of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association’s 2,300 members had taken their courses by January 2016, said Chuck Eser, Calhoon director. Waiting lists have reached as high as 350 at the Maryland school, which also offers training to non-union members.  

Some engineers in the Gulf region have faced potential delays in enrolling because their companies are hesitating to fund the training as they assess their future needs amid the oil-exploration slump. Andrews said those engineers realize that they may be on their own. Engineers who procrastinate run the risk of being able to sail only domestically after Dec. 31.

“They are paying out of pocket and not waiting for the company,” Andrews said. “They will do whatever is necessary to maintain that license.”

Operators should strive to integrate the content from the STCW courses with other good safety practices, toward the ultimate goal of preventing casualties, said Nick Wilcox, maritime training business leader at Montreal-based CAE Inc., which was a pioneer in developing bridge resource management for deck officers and then applying it to engineers too. 

The STCW requirements “have undoubtedly emphasized the key importance of this training,” Wilcox said. “Attitude change to safety takes some while to achieve and we work closely with our customers to make sure that learning is turned into action and is sustained.”

By Professional Mariner Staff