Chief Mate / Master Shipboard Assessments


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Ship Grounded - Glacier Bay Alaska from on Vimeo.


John - Is it just my computer, or has Mr. Cavo’s response to TH totally disappeared? It makes it look like I’m responding to thin air (which I often do, but didn’t want everyone to know about it).

James, we may have days where we disagree here, but ultimately I think I can speak for all of us here when I say we appreciate you input and participation. This may not be the last time we need to debate an issue, but the only way we’re going to fix it long term is to discuss, argue it, fight for it, and participate in it’s change.

Afterall, it’s not only our way of life, it’s our livelihood…




I am assuming he edited the comment out after Todd noted he was obtaining legal counsel. Which is exactly why the edit button is there… no sense in anyone getting in trouble at work for a forum post especially if they have mariner’s best interest in mind (I can assure you Cavo does!). I don’t know what was written there before but we fully support his desicion. We also appreciate Todd’s honesty.
Anyway… edited comments are usually marked as such but this one got cleared as I was updating the forum software this morning.


John has it figured out. It is also possible I may have flost my balance walking the thin line of caution vs. making it harder for someone to get an assessment done.
The edit tool is also hl;pful in fixing the typos I never see unti I click on “Add your comments.” Responding to thin air isn’t so bad, it’s when the air responds back that you have to worry…


I think we have all experienced a little vertigo now and again, and I suppose the most important thing is not find yourself all piled up in a heap. As to the thin air answering…no comment! <img alt="" src=“” />
I’m with John - I think there are many more better informed mariner’s here because of your presence and input, and we all know where your intentions are. Truth be told, I think TH does as well. I think the real challenge before us is - <strong>How do we make it better than what it is?</strong> And I think you’ve more than contirbuted to that end James, by just keeping us informed.
By the way John, I like the new upgrades…and, we too often forget we wouldn’t be having this conversation without your efforts…Thanks!!!


El Capitan,
Maybe, if you relocated your head, the air would get better.


…as far as the thin air goes.


Actually, I think the air here is better than where your head is.


…at least fresher.


Don’t know El Capitan, getting ready to head to town and have some crawfish. We’ll see where the hell they imported this from. Anchorman is representing you guys well (haha).




Todd.Harter, I will get back to you off-line next week. I’m out of the office and can’t figure out gCaptain’s private message thing.


Capt. Rob, I hope you guys had some fun, and that the crawfish washed down well with a few cold ones. Anchorman underestimates himself.
Todd - I appreciate that fact that you came back to the table, and hope that in the long run all of this irons out to a net positive. As for the rest of it…if we don’t change it, who will.


I am suspending this crusade for the moment to give the CG time to sort everything out. I edited all of my previous comments.
I am also wondering if I am an absolute idiot for using my real name. Any thoughts? I figured that if I keep a good name and live my life like an open book - it didn’t really matter. And - if someone stole my identity - they might do a better job with it than I am - my credit rating would probably just go up. Guess I’ll start thinking up of those catchy and anonymous screennames. I’m still a bit new to this chat stuff - since the computer has been introduced on board, and the paper-work has multiplied ten-fold since “back in the day”, I avoid any more time behind the keyboard than I have to.
My sincere hope is that I can return in a month or two on here to tell everyone how efficiently and smoothly the NMC has dealt with the matter… How they have demonstrated the ablility to adapt for the better.
I suppose, after my ranting and ravings on here, the least I can do is come back when/if it is all resolved and sing their praises in equal proportion the chastizing I have done.
Thanks for bearing with me.


“I am also wondering if I am an absolute idiot for using my real name.” well if so you’re not alone! Some people have 2 accounts and use both depending on the comment. Others have requested a private section of the forum which we are considering.

We do appreciate your honesty Todd.


Singapore approach and harbor brings back memories. I don’t know if it is still true but a few years ago a ship arrived or left every three minutes and one third of the world’s sea borne commerce passed thru there. The tonnage underway or maneuvering at any given time was something to behold and it’s a credit to the professionals from many nations as well as the harbor officials that chaos was avoided, usually.


Now that this has calmed down a bit, I’ll re-post one of the comments I deleted to avoid protracting an overheated discussion.
Ther was discussion of why the STCW assessments are as detailed as they are, and whether they need to be followed exactly. Here’s some background and explanatioin of why they are the way they are.
The Coast Guard’s original vision for assessments is explained in NVIC 6-97. We anticipated having Coast Guard approved Designated Examiners use their professional judgment and experience to make a determination of whether a candidate is competent. This could be seen as sometyhing of a professional opinion from the Designated Examiner. When this was presented to the industry (via MERPAC), there was nearly unanimous resistance based on fears of liability to the Designated Examiner should a mariner they stated was competent become involved in a casualty where competence was an issue. This threatened to derail the entire process and make it very difficult for a mariner to find someone will;iong to sign off on their competence. A different approach was needed.
It was decided we needed a way to have the ultimate determination of competence to be made by the Coast Guard. The current assessment process is the result. Through MERPAC, we identified the tasks that a competent mariner at the certification level shouldf be expected to perform. We then established the conditions for this demonstration, and rthe step by step process to perform the task. By signing this demonstration, the assessor is simply staing that on one occasion they witnessed the candidate do a specific thing a specific way. As long as this statement is truthful (the candidate did it exactly as described), it’s simply a statement of what the assesor saw and liability would be minimal. By evaluating the big pile o’ assessments, trainig certificates and sea time records, it would be the Coast Guard who makes the determination of competence. Hence the reason to not deviate from the printed assessment.
Some of you may be thinking “but what about the TOAR and towing vessels…?” This process follows pretty colsely the original intent for STCW described in NVIC 6-97. The Coast reviews the experience and qualifications of Designated Examiners and only Coast Guard approved Designated Examiners can sign the TOAR. If you’ve seen the TOAR, you’ve probably noted it is very general. For example, there’s a single task for operating electronic equipment in the wheelhouse. The STCW assessments for Officer in Charge of a Navigational Watch have close to 30 that could fall under this broad item in the TOAR. With the TOAR, the Designated Examiner is observing the candidate over a period of time and using theior professional judgment and experience, they are making a dtermination that the mariner has acheived a level of competence.
Why the difference in STCW and the TOAR? I explained why the STCW assessment are as they are. With the TOAR, the industry (via TSAC) was reluctant to adopt the STCW model for a variety of reasons, including the diversity of towing vessel operations and the incompatability of a one size fits all approach. They did not exprewss a strong resistance to relying on the determination by the Designated Examiner, thus their process is different from the STCW.
The above is a reason why it is not unusual or unacceptable for a mariner to have a TOAR with many of the items signed off on a single day. That day is simply the culmination of a period of observation during which the candudate demonstrated their competence to the Designated Exsaminer. In contrast, a mariner having a large number of STCW assessments signed on a single day could be questionable. Depending on the specific assessments, it might be unlikely for a vessel to have encountered all of the assessment conditrions on a single day (e.g. having the restricted visibiltiy assessments signed on the same day as celestial navigation assessments) and/or for the mariner to have perofrmed all of the tasks in a short period of time like a single watch. In such cases we won’t automatically conclude there was something improper, but would have cause to investigate further.
Hopefully the above gives some background without reving the contentiousness of the past discussion.
James D. Cavo

Chief, Mariner Training & Assessment Division

USCG National Maritime Center

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Thanks for keeping us informed, and please don’t let my frustrated rantings keep you from doing so Mr. Cavo.
A previous question I had is still up in the air. How long is a sufficient amount of time for the dozen or so assessments which must be completed shipboard? 7 days / 60 days? As I have previously stated, I know of someone who was in trouble for having them signed off too quickly. Since I will be having to spend my time off working with another company to get them signed off (again) I would rather do it as quickly as possible.


Mr Cavo,
I echo todd.harters quesion. Since I’m not working for a maritime company right now. I need to get mine signed off w/o losing a good deal of work. I’m actually working the RFPEW side. Since these were all tasks I did MANY times through years in the navy, will that be taken into account. I really don’t want to get kicked in the face on my first trip to the REC??