License degradation

It’s sad to watch the slow and steady degradation of the USCG license. Guys are getting unlimited licenses who have zero understanding of stability theory. ( Shame on the coast guard for structuring the third mate exam so you can pass without knowing anything about stability.) Many of these people memorize the answers with no idea of the theory or practices that underlie the question.Just beng able to punch some numbers in to a stability program is not enough.

I hear now that they want to set it up so 1600 ton Captains can get an Unlimited Masters ticket. I guess it won’t be long before there’s a 50 question “crossover” from OS to Unlimited Master. Hey, why make them put in years at sea and all that dull studying…just give an Unlimited Masters ticket and throw in pilotage for all US ports with every TWIC card. (There’s a lot of guys retiring in the near future and we need the bodies.)

[QUOTE=bshaggnasty;149788]It’s sad to watch the slow and steady degradation of the USCG license. Guys are getting unlimited licenses who have zero understanding of stability theory. ( Shame on the coast guard for structuring the third mate exam so you can pass without knowing anything about stability.) Many of these people memorize the answers with no idea of the theory or practices that underlie the question.Just beng able to punch some numbers in to a stability program is not enough. [/QUOTE]

You just noticed this now? Nothing was changed for stability for 3rd Mate in a very long time. Are you referruing to publishing the exam questions and answers…? That happened around 1990. But, for Chief Mate and Master it was changed more recently (but still a long time ago) to be a separate module so you can’t blow off stability and pass by answering enough of the other questions correctly.

Under the recent regulation change, an STCW endorsement for Chief Mate and Mastre requires an Advanced Stability course, and OICNW requires a Basic Stability course.

[QUOTE=bshaggnasty;149788]… I hear now that they want to set it up so 1600 ton Captains can get an Unlimited Masters ticket… [/QUOTE]

Feh. You need to be more selective in who you listen to.

I once asked a mate, “Where’d you get your license from a Cracker Jack box.” Maybe he did.

I was coming back to the ship and the Japanese launch boat captain approached the vessel in the lee of of an 8-10 foot swell off Naha Okinawa. The lee had a good 6 foot swell. The mate yells at the guy to go to the other side as the idiot mate had rigged the pilot ladder on that side and was too lazy to rig it on the lee side. When the boat captain expertly rode up the swell and I jumped and climbed the ladder, the idiot chief mate started yelling at me accusing me of telling the launch driver to go to to the lee side. I told him I don’t speak Japanese and that guy driving the launch was a professional not an idiot like him. The launch driver went to the safest side of the ship for me get aboard. That’s when I asked him where he got his license.

I’ll agree with you that the practical knowledge of Stability is diminished these days, but I don’t think that is on the Coast Guard.

We really don’t spend that much of our lives in the testing room at the REC, what we study just to pass a test or series of tests will be much more quickly forgotten than the things we practice over and over again while doing our jobs. I don’t know if I would pass the Stability exam if given it right this minute, but I know I could pass it if you gave me three hours to study for it. Very few people fail the Chief Mate tests after taking the month long study classes for it. If the test was harder, you could just make the study classes for it longer and most people would still pass the tests, and still forget much of what they learned within a few years.

The things we develop great knowledge and skill at are the things we have to do over and over again at work. In my case that would be SMS paperwork, vessel inspections, details of the overtime section of the SIU contract, 400+ reefers to check daily, answering ridiculous e-mails from the office about crap that doesn’t matter, checking 100+ page dangerous cargo manifests, motivating people to do the job they are paid to do, checking to make sure they actually do it . . . etc.

I’m interested in Stability, if my list changes noticeably after changing course or a wind shift I time my roll period and see if it matches my GM, but it isn’t the Coast Guard’s fault if I have forgotten some of the formulas I haven’t used in years. If my GM on Loadstar is 1m or more and the ship isn’t behaving oddly I just don’t have enough time in the day to ponder it.

Though sometimes when dealing with colleagues in both the wheelhouse and the engine room I wonder if we might be better off if we all had to retake the full licensing exam every time we renew.

We need higher licensing standards. We have an irrational fixation on tonnage which has very little to do with knowledge or ability. The exams are outdated and far too easy. The STCW courses are too short and too easy. Publishing all the exam questions and answers has really diminished the value of the exams, and our licenses.

It seems to me the only fix would be, not making exams harder or more often, but to require more classroom schooling where you learn theory.

Coming late to this thread but I’ve already stated everything that needs stating when it comes to USCG policy regarding qualifications for a UL Masters ticket.

good topic tho and hope this one goes a long time

[QUOTE=tugsailor;149937]The STCW courses are too short and too easy. Publishing all the exam questions and answers has really diminished the value of the exams, and our licenses.[/QUOTE]

I’m all for preventing the value of our licenses from being diluted, but can’t really say that I agree with adding classroom training. Taking 13 weeks of STCW required CM/Master upgrade courses was not a good use of my time; with the exception of the 10 day advanced ship-handling module, it was all stuff that I could have studied on my own. I can’t really say that the experience of sitting through ten million sea stories, narrated by the instructors at Dania, made me the mariner that I am today. Making the exams more difficult could, conceivably, weed out more of the mental dwarfs. Those people who require more instruction, would be free to take more NON-MANDATORY course as needed. Of course, the schools that make $ off this industry would balk.

All you guys working GoM, experience the same bullshit at Fake Alford. Think about this the next time you take HUET while you’re getting helicopter dunked for the 15th time.

More classes are not the answer. Of all the STCW, MSC and company required courses I have taken, I would guess that 99% of the class time was a useless waste of time. The biggest waste ever was the Ballast Control Operator class. And yes that is a “stability” class.

Ok maybe not “more” classes but they at least need a better designed curriculum. Almost every course is pretty much the basics as spelled out in whatever assessment plus a few seas stories. Maybe we need better quality instructors.

[QUOTE=Heat Miser;149942]I’m all for preventing the value of our licenses from being diluted, but can’t really say that I agree with adding classroom training. Taking 13 weeks of STCW required CM/Master upgrade courses was not a good use of my time; with the exception of the 10 day advanced ship-handling module, it was all stuff that I could have studied on my own. I can’t really say that the experience of sitting through ten million sea stories, narrated by the instructors at Dania, made me the mariner that I am today. Making the exams more difficult could, conceivably, weed out more of the mental dwarfs. Those people who require more instruction, would be free to take more NON-MANDATORY course as needed. Of course, the schools that make $ off this industry would balk.

All you guys working GoM, experience the same bullshit at Fake Alford. Think about this the next time you take HUET while you’re getting helicopter dunked for the 15th time.[/QUOTE]

and what year did you graduate with a 3/M license?

[QUOTE=LI_Domer;149945]Ok maybe not “more” classes but they at least need a better designed curriculum. Almost every course is pretty much the basics as spelled out in whatever assessment plus a few seas stories. Maybe we need better quality instructors.[/QUOTE]

I don’t see it as a we need better instructors. The curriculum could be designed better but in the end it meets STCW/MSC/Company requirements. I have learned more on the job in a 2 month trip than in all my classroom training combined, including 4 years in college. The fact that there are incompetent people with higher licenses isn’t going to change with better training. Some people are just idiots and all the training in the world isn’t going to change that. I do think the license questions need revamping. That may help weed out some less qualified people. Lets face it, the license questions as they are now have little to do with knowledge or skill. They have been outdated for a long time.

I favor much higher quality, much more difficult classes. If I have to spend my time and money on a class, I want my moneys worth. I want the certificate to actually indicate a reasonable level of competence.

I would prefer a blended learning approach where the introduction and “homework” must be done first online in order to even qualify to attend the actual class. We need much greater use of simulators (something you cannot get by reading a book). The courses would be a lot better if there were not so many unprepared people attending. Some of the people I see in classes are frightening. We really need to get away from these very weak classes where everyone is guaranteed to pass. The classes and the certificates have little value when the are designed and run so even the most clueless idiots pass.

The schools are not interested in quality training; they just want to pass out as many certificates as possible in exchange for fast cash.

Absolutely. You articulated my sentiments perfectly.

[QUOTE=tugsailor;149958]
The schools are not interested in quality training; they just want to pass out as many certificates as possible in exchange for fast cash.[/QUOTE]

I will disagree with this generalization and explain why.
Through the years, like most of us professionals out there, I have attended and taken many continuing education courses to maintain licensing. Some schools ok, some above average and one or two that made me wonder how they kept accreditation.
One constant and above par through the years has been MITAGS.
Personally, I have witnessed more than a few not make the grade. Myself included for GMDSS some years ago.
Top notch instructors, facilities and never have I seen them demonstrate being a diploma mill. I suppose your mileage may vary, but I have always left MITAGS feeling I have learned something valuable.

[QUOTE=capnfab;149963]I will disagree with this generalization and explain why.
Through the years, like most of us professionals out there, I have attended and taken many continuing education courses to maintain licensing. Some schools ok, some above average and one or two that made me wonder how they kept accreditation.
One constant and above par through the years has been MITAGS.
Personally, I have witnessed more than a few not make the grade. Myself included for GMDSS some years ago.
Top notch instructors, facilities and never have I seen them demonstrate being a diploma mill. I suppose your mileage may vary, but I have always left MITAGS feeling I have learned something valuable.[/QUOTE]

I have seen many people fail at other schools too. Just because people fail a class, that doesn’t mean the class is difficult or has some value. Some people who took classes with me may have gotten something of value out of it, I don’t know. I have been sailing a long time so it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. For me, the STCW or MSC required courses were nearly useless. Some of the non-required classes were better. I think the reason they were better may have been due that it didn’t have to meet an STCW or MSC standard.

Even though we are either directly or indirectly paying the bills, we are really not the customers. The people that require us to have these classes and certificates are in reality the customers. They set the standard for these classes. We are just the guy looking for a paycheck.

This is legal extortion, plain and simple. If you look what has transpired over the last 10 years, is a boat load of useless classes. Why do we need to attend a leadership class??? The office knows weather you can manage your crew, train your junior engine room guys, and etc… These classes have been generated by the retired Navy/Coasties that have been hired in management positions in nearly all of the companies who are employed by. They are fundamentally transforming, incrementally, these companies to be more like the military. They are connected to the regulatory body of the USCG, and are collaborating together making our industry more like the military. Just take a look at our physical standards that are in effect…BMI has to be less than 40%. Kind of like our bloated federal government…when does all the regulations stop???

I like c.capees post on another topic with the “old school” wheelhouse…just look out the windows and drive the boat and don’t hit nuttn!!!

The people who understand the operations of the business are typically the ones sailing on the vessels (not the office desk jockeys and definitely not the maritime union officials and employees). Unfortunately, it’s the desk jockey and Navy/CG types who come up with the bright ideas for all the training requirements. You may ask, “why do we need to attend a leadership class?” Good question. I know the recent mandate for the 40-hour “Leadership and Management” course was rolled out as part of the STCW Manilla Amendment, but I’d really like to know how the USCG decides to implement the international STCW requirement by instituting another 40-hour course. I seriously doubt that such an onerous requirement was really necessary to comply with the STCW Manilla Amendment. I understand that the maritime unions get to weigh-in during this process, but the unions fail to represent the interests of the rank-and-file. With respect to classroom training requirements, the unions work at cross purposes to their membership, as they are invested in increasing course requirements in an effort to generate revenue for their training schools. It should come as no surprise that AMO’s liaison to the rule-making bodies is not a career merchant mariner, but a retired Naval officer.

I’m scheduled to take the Leadership and Management Course this spring. I’ll be taking a good chunk out of an already short vacation, so I can listen to some non-sailing n’er do well, as he tells me how to do a job that I’m already doing. I can’t wait.

I see that others here have different experiences, however every maritime training class I’ve ever attended, at quite a few different institutions around the country, has been a no-fail class. Passage is automatic and those who fail the test are simply kept late and helped until they pass. I’ve never seen anyone fail. Thus the classes all lacked any sort of rigor and most were worthless, sad to say. This type of “training” has always bothered me, to say the least.

[QUOTE=Slick Cam;149978]I see that others here have different experiences, however every maritime training class I’ve ever attended, at quite a few different institutions around the country, has been a no-fail class. Passage is automatic and those who fail the test are simply kept late and helped until they pass. I’ve never seen anyone fail. Thus the classes all lacked any sort of rigor and most were worthless, sad to say. This type of “training” has always bothered me, to say the least.[/QUOTE]

I have seen people fail Radar recert, ECDIS, GMDSS and small arms. They all had to reschedule to take the entire class again. Needless to say, they weren’t happy campers about having to redo the entire class. But yes the vast majority of the people pass whatever class it is. I would think that most instructors will keep a student who is close to passing late for them to pass. In the cases I witnessed, they failing student wasn’t even close to passing the class.