India will soon be celebrating World Maritime Day and we can legitimately feel happy and proud by achieving a lot in Maritime trade and technology. We have mastered construction and safe operation of huge oil tankers, specialized ships like chemical tankers and Gas carriers and have been able to promulgate rules, regulations, guide lines and best practices in all aspects of these and other types of vessels. We have been able to write out Polar code and have successfully operated vessels with specialized ice cutting provisions to navigate through the northern ice route, at least in some months of the year. Besides economy, it has given our seafarers and marine technologists enormous confidence, that we can do it, we have done it.
India has made tremendous progress in the field of off shore activities by designing and operating specialized vessels, oil platforms, laying up and testing the pipe lines facing rough seas and hazardous situations with immense capability. It has been a spectacle of human endeavor and success thereof. International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has been doing great job in laying out model courses and updating regulations. Indian Shipping companies, the DG Shipping institution and our marine colleges have progressed but, alas, not qualitatively. Where is a decent big passenger ship under the Indian flag? We need to understand one thing very clearly that maritime technology and safe operation requires acquisition of various skills like various welding techniques, carpentry, plumbing , use of drilling and lathe machine for ability to carry out certain basic day to day jobs on board.
The automation has increased a lot and so we need young persons possessing capability of meeting the challenge through relevant skill acquisition. We have trainers in India, good trainers, but we must supplement by unhesitatingly seeking foreign assistance say from the Japanese or the Norwegians. On a ship, a Ph.D holder or MSc is not required, but ability to read an electrical drawing and finding and rectifying a fault is certainly required. The classification societies are doing a very good job. Their surveyors have tremendous knowledge. I am always looking to learn something from them. However, neither the IMO, nor the Directorate General of Shipping (DGS) has recognized their potential as legitimate teachers.
There are marine equipment manufacturers; we will meet them at the Expo shortly. What tremendous capabilities have they developed? Some of them at least the willing ones, could be invited to teach or impart training to our youth. The health of Indian seafarers, in general, is a matter of concern needing our attention. All of us know that whatever we learn is mostly while working on board. Infact, we should be paying attention to greater onboard training, specially for post – sea learning.