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Friday, 17 November 2017

Vitaly Klyuyev: “Seafarers training system in Russia complies with international standards”

The system of training and certification of seafarers in Russia has been brought into compliance with the international requirements. Major efforts of the Transport Ministry and other ad hoc agencies have lead up to that. In his interview with IAA PortNews, Vitaly Klyuyev, Director of RF Transport Ministry's Department of State Policy for Maritime and River Transport, tells about training of shipboard personnel and about changes in the system of industry-specific education.

  • Mr Klyuyev, could you, please, tell about the system of training seafarers in Russia and major activities of the Transport Ministry in this sphere? What is the most important thing you would emphasize today?

The most important thing is to recognize the simple fact: our industry-focused educational institutions should be not process- but result-oriented. Who are those we are training? We should train seafarers. What is a seafarer is described by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW, with Manila amendments) and by the STCW Code, which supplements the Convention. They set forth the requirements for seafarers of different specializations. Our task is to build a system for training seafarers so that they comply with international standards at any step of their carriers.

In this respect, Russian Ministry of Transport has been doing a comprehensive and consistent work starting from 2009 when Manila amendments appeared on the horizon. We have performed regulatory and organizational activities that have shaped the current system of seafarers training in the Russian Federation. This system has been recently praised by the Secretary- General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) during his visit to Russia.

We have approved Regulations on Certification of Seafarers which specify requirements for each phase of their training: basic education, certification with/without qualification testing, navigation and practical training, upgrade training when being promoted and changing positions.

In compliance with the mentioned Convention we have also created a system for recognizing educational organizations' right to train seafarers. This recognition is also the competence of the Transport Ministry. All educational organizations wishing their graduates be awarded with diplomas by a Harbour Master should obtain a recognition from the Ministry of Transport.

Moreover, we have elaborated requirements for simulator training and a mechanism for certification of simulator centers entitled to perform conventional training. In this respect, simulator centers should comply with the STCW Convention requirements and be recognized by the Federal Marine and River Transport Agency (Rosmorrechflot).

At last, we are completing our work on the document that formalizes requirements on minimum safe manning. When this document is issued – and we hope this happens very soon - the complete package of documents on training of seafarers will be available in the Russian Federation.

Besides, each educational organization or simulator center should have an effective Quality Management System to control conventional training of seafarers (which is required by STCW Convention). QMS effectiveness is to be confirmed through certification.

In line with the STCW Convention we have created a dedicated information system for a centralized record of diplomas and qualifying certificates issued at all levels of education. Now, all data about of each seafarer training (diplomas, qualification testing, length of sea-going service) is entered into the information system.

Thus, the Russian Federation obtains a unified, comprehensive, structured and legally recognized system (a system indeed!) for training and upgrading seafarers starting from their entry to the educational institution and up to the end of their carrier.

  • The system has been developed. Does it cover all spheres of seafarers' education and work? What else should be done in this respect?

There is a process underway. It is related to the health of seafarers and the issue has moved to an advanced phase. In fact, confirmation of the ability to work onboard a ship in any position is regulated by two international documents – STCW Convention and Maritime Labour Convention (Russia has acceded to both).

Together with the Ministry of Health we have developed a list of diseases which do not allow taking onboard positions. There was no list of that kind before. It has appeared only in 2017.

Two processes should be completed in this respect: to approve the medical survey procedure and a form of certificate and to issue a list of medical organizations allowed to perform those activities.

The first document has already been approved by the Ministry of Health. Yet, there is one question – who and when should undergo such a survey. Draft amendments into MMC have been submitted to the State Duma with the decision expected by the end of 2017.

  • What measures have been undertaken in practical sphere?

In December 2016, Transport Ministry and Rosmorrechflot started optimization of seafarers certification by seaports' Harbour Masters. We began with Saint-Petersburg: the Diploma Department has moved to a new building with a convenient logistics where seafarers are provided with consulting services. We have set a task of decreasing the time seafarers spend there (15 minutes maximum). Earlier, seafarers had to apply in two months for submitting documents. The process of documents consideration could take up to a month and the entire process - 2-3 months. Now it takes 15 minutes to submit documents. Then, within 10 days, a seafarer is informed by sms about the diploma availability and it takes 15 minutes maximum to get the document.

It is not about a situation when qualification testing is required. Of course, they will take additional time. There are two phases in this case: computer tests and an interview. The testing can be held immediately after submitting an application – no virtual or actual queues or any pre-appointment.

All Diploma Departments of Harbour Masters' Services at all ports of the Russian Federation offer similar arrangements. I have visited most of them personally.

Besides, if there is a confirmation of a seafarer's self-education it is not necessary to undergo qualification testing or upgrading for diploma prolongation provided that the position is not changed.

So, by the end of 2017 we are going to complete a 10-year long cycle of developing the system for training, certification and assignment of seafarers.

  • Are there foreign students in our maritime educational institutions?

There are foreign students but I would not say there are many of them – there is a lot to be done to this end. Today, we are traditionally focused on our partners of USSR times: Vietnam, Mongolia, Iran, India... But I think our educational organizations should have a wider footprint and involve developed countries in exchange of specialists. In this context, I would note that I expected language problems when IMO Secretary-General had a meeting with cadets. Yet, there were actually no problems and I even envied some of the cadets over their good English pronunciation. Both IMO Secretary-General and me were favorably impressed with that.

Interviewed by Nadezhda Malysheva - IAA PortNews

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