This year, Ukraine is being audited by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The first stage of the audit has been completed: EMSA inspectors visited our country from 10 to 20 April 2018. Official audit results with general recommendations will be published at a later date. For now, we can make only preliminary conclusions about how this audit will affect the system of maritime education, training and certification of seafarers, as well as existing medical standards.
The EMSA and the IMO audit their member states every five years. Ukraine was scheduled to be audited in 2015, but the audit was postponed to let the country prepare for it. Once the schedule was set, the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine requested the EMSA to carry out a preparatory visit in order to determine the country’s progress in readiness for the upcoming audit. In December 2015, IMO representatives visited Ukraine to provide technical assistance in advance of the audit, as well as determining the progress made in compliance with the organization’s mandatory requirements and sending a report to the Ministry of Infrastructure with recommendations concerning priority measures. In autumn 2017, EMSA experts visited Ukraine for similar reasons. All comments and suggestions made by inspectors from both organizations were taken into consideration, and Ukraine did its best to prepare itself for the April visit by EMSA inspectors.
The purpose of the EMSA audit is to assess the national system of education, training and certification of seafarers, as well as medical standards, with regard to compliance with the requirements of Directive 2008/106/ЕС and of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended. To this extent, on 10 and 11 April, EMSA auditors worked in the Inspectorate for Training and Certification of Seafarers, before visiting the Kherson State Maritime Academy, the Certificate and Passport Office of the Kherson Seaport Administration (Administration of Ukrainian Seaports, a state-owned enterprise), the State Transport Security Service, and the National University “Odessa Maritime Academy”. An inspection of two training centres was scheduled in the framework of the audit, namely, of the Specialized Maritime Training Centre of Kherson State Maritime Academy and the “Admiral” Teaching and Training Complex.
According to the Director of the “Admiral” Teaching and Training Complex, Aleksey Gab, inspectors mainly commented on record-keeping, facilities, resources and teaching aids:
“They checked the adequacy of our facilities and available resources, the readiness of our instructors to teach courses required by the STCW, and also compliance with requirements of this convention. All of our three sites (two offices and the training base) have passed the audit successfully. The audit lasted one day and was carried out by auditors with vast experience. I can’t say it was easy. The audit was selective but thorough. Inspectors commented on a number of things during the audit and offered recommendations for improving the quality of seafarer training.”
“One of two areas that inspectors commended us for was the development of educational plans and programmes based on the IMO’s model courses. Those are recommended. But, since the release of the amended STCW, in order to achieve the optimum quality of services provided to seafarers, it has been necessary to comply with amendments to the convention and not the IMO’s model courses. This means that we need to keep track of new directives, amendments and so forth on a continuous basis, and to adjust educational programme accordingly. In other words, we should apply the method of course compliance with requirements of the convention and not just copy the model course. This will make things harder for training centres, but that’s the only way.”
We should also mention another matter about the audit procedure: “Until now, all audits were focused on the available facilities and teaching aids, as well as instructors and relevant documents, but this audit was entirely different from what we have been used to. While the EMSA inspectors checked the available facilities and teaching aids, the main focus for them was the teaching process and its compliance with the STCW,” says Gab.
According to the Director of the “Admiral” Teaching and Training Complex, all drawbacks identified by the inspectors can be eliminated; indeed, the training centre is already working on this task. Short-term plans include drafting an audit report and developing an action plan for this purpose. The training centre will organize its work based on this plan, which will be approved by the Ministry of Infrastructure. “In any case, it is useful experience concerning how international audits are carried out. We got our act together and addressed many issues that hadn’t got around to earlier while preparing for this audit,” explains Gab.
The EMSA will send its official findings to the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine. In due course, you can expect The Professional Seafarer to discuss the audit report in more detail.