Marine Academies, fall short on teaching essential fundamentals

Retired MMA Professor James Murphy said in an editorial in The Bourne Enterprise that the El Faro’s sinking was the result of many mistakes, in fact it is an example of how Murphy’s law works…

However, somewhat further he makes a statement which is in my opinion quite shocking as he literary is saying that MMA and I suppose also the other Marine Academies, fall short on teaching essential fundamentals like damaged stability, hurricane navigation, meteorological education in general and constant situational awareness of all things. “The maritime industry has to do a better job”, as he puts is. Evidently they are not doing a good job at the moment. Room for improvement to say the least…

If this really is the case, which is somewhat hard to believe, I suggest that in future the Academies spend less time on sports and more on proper education of maritime fundamentals which can save lives. Unbelievable. MMA even prides themselves to be recognized as the global leader in providing the highest quality engineering, management, science and transportation education and now this.

"We can take what we know about what happened and adapt our training, our teaching,” he said.

For one thing, he said the maritime industry has to do a better job with teaching how a damaged hull affects a ship’s stability in rough seas—what he called damaged stability.
“When you get flooding—a hull breach—what happens then? How will the ship react? We don’t do a good enough job with that.”

He said the industry needs to also boost its efforts on meteorological education.

“We need to do more with how hurricanes form; how they act; how they move; and how we should maneuver,” he said.

He said extra emphasis must be placed on the importance of constant situational awareness.

The academies aren’t “the industry” so I’m not sure where you think he’s talking about short falls of academy education. There’s only so much that can be taught in a given amount of time, the academies teach fundamentals and the 3rd mates are then expected to learn the advanced stuff on the job.

The topics he mentioned are topics covered by the classes and assessments required for Chef Mate, as they should be.

Do they not teach all that stuff any more?!?! I remember vividly the damage control and damage stability sessions at A&M we went through when I was a cadet. The real world, “this could save your life” things. We also had a senior meteorologist from NOAA and a former Navy oceanographer and meteorologist on our summer training cruises too for weather related training like was mentioned in the OP. if this isn’t part of the training anymore, then it damn well should be.

I’m pretty sure damaged stability is covered in stability class but it’s the kind of subject that gets covered but not intensely. There’s also metrology, possibly covering the 1,2,3 rule for hurricane avoidance but I don’t remember exactly. My point is that both there’s so much general information to go over that you can’t expect a deep and lasting absorption of that advanced information and a 3M doesn’t really need to know that information in detail, the Chief Mate and Master do. That’s why there are the advanced stability and advanced meteorology classes required for CM along with assessments on computing intact stability when taking on water.

Also, the quote from the expert didn’t say “academies” need to address anything better, it said “industry” does. Maybe now they’re going to start requiring refresher metrology courses and refresher advanced stability courses every five years for Chief Mates and Masters.

One of the objectives from advanced stability at San Jac:

Knowledge of the effect on trim and stability of a ship in the event of damage to and consequent flooding of a compartment and countermeasures to be taken will be understood.

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Yeah, if they have taken a metrology class they can tell how deep the flooding is in many different measurement systems but might still be “challenged” by weather.

The most advanced met class I’ve taken was called “Heavy Weather Avoidance”.

Hardy har har. I just got your joke and fixed my typo. Are you happy?

How does the industry “know” something? All mariners have gaps in their knowledge. How do you make sure a mariner knows what he needs to know when he needs to know it?

The industry ‘knows’ it from incorporation into the rules affecting the industry and which become the set of information and practices a ‘reasonable’ member of the regulated industry would know.

But for Mariners, it’s more specific, it’s established in internationally agreed upon standards of knowledge and comepetency via STCW, what a Master or OICNW must know, and the information they are charged to satisfactorily understand. And that a certifying nation must promulgate in approved courses, taking the model courses into consideration.

For weather info, and requirements for training in same, see section 4.4 of this investigation:

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Knowledge can be from training and/or experience. I’ve observed that companies that operate a large number of ships have a wider range of lessons learned and that good companies are able to incorporate those lessons into safety notices, changes in procedures as so forth.

As an example the “knowledge” - that the best heavy weather tactic in heavy seas is to heave to into the seas as mentioned in the Marco Polo report.

I learned that lesson from a seasoned Aleutian freighter captain in the Gulf of Alaska. I unlearned that lesson in Bay of Biscay, first and only time I’ve been in hurricane force winds and phenomenal seas as per UK MET office.

  • I was just off Finisterre in this stuff. Ended up taking the seas just forward of the beam to avoid parametric rolling.

That’s the minimum requirement for all mariners. ISM also requires that the company identify the need for additional training.

6.5 The Company should establish and maintain procedures for identifying any training which may be required in support of the SMS and ensure that such training is provided for all personnel concerned.

The duties of a DPA go far beyond the minimum requirements/

The responsibility and authority of the designated person or persons should include monitoring the safety and pollution prevention aspects of the operation of each ship