Thursday, August 2, 2012

Diploma in Nautical Science (DNS) :More than 15,000 DNS cadets left in the lurch


Ban on  (DNS) course alone can save them
Published in Sagar Sandesh Maritime Weekly on August 1, 2012

Chennai:
The dream of taking an onboard career for more than 15,000-odd aspiring candidates has been shattered to pieces consequent on the mandatory 18-month sea-timing to complete their Diploma in Nautical Sciences (DNS) course (Leading to B.Sc (Nautical Science)) remaining elusive.
The situation has assumed monstrous proportions during the past few years and continuing with admitting more and more students for DNS course year after year would end at a total breakdown of the whole system, experts warned.
According to senior members in the maritime education field, a total ban on admitting students (from this academic session itself) would only help those 15,000-odd cadets, who are still awaiting for their chance, to complete the mandatory 18-month onboard training (sea-time)to get diplomas.
It is also reliably learnt that the ongoing legal wrangling over Directorate General of shipping (DGS)’s role in regulating the maritime education in the country and Indian Maritime University (IMU)’s claim as the sole authority for approval, affiliation and regulation of marine courses in India has also playing the spoilsport  in the lives of those DNS trainees.
With the sea-timing allotment now snowballing into a major issue, educational experts are afraid that it would also have a cascading effect on other maritime courses too.
“In the interest of thousands of aspiring seafarers, the Indian Maritime University and the DG Shipping should sit together and sort out the issue before it reaches a point of no return,” a senior member in the maritime education field, on condition of anonymity, told Sagar Sandesh.
According to the statistics made available from DG Shipping, every year, more than 2400 students are admitted to the diploma course in the DGS-recognized institutes. But, hardly 20-30 percent of them are able to get their mandatory sea-time thus leaving a big question mark on the future of the remaining trainees.

DNS Structure:
The course is a six-semester (three year) programme constituting three stages.
Initially, a candidate is admitted for the one year residential (2 semesters) pre-sea course and on completion of I & II Semesters, a candidate will be awarded Diploma in Nautical Science (DNS).
This diploma programme is followed by one and a half year (3 Semesters) on-board ship training and after successful completion of the same, a candidate is awarded Advanced Diploma in Nautical Science (ADNS).
After completion of the on-board training, the sixth semester constitutes “Second MateCertificate of Competency” awarded by the Director General of Shipping and simultaneous award of B.Sc., (Nautical Science) degree.
The sorry state:  
After opening floodgates of maritime training to private sector in 1996-97, there has been mushroom growth in number of such institutes conducting pre-sea courses, and as on date more than 85 institutes are approved for conducting various pre-sea training courses of both the discipline -- Nautical and Engineering.
In a recent review by the DG Shipping on the approved intake of pre-sea courses against the training berths ( sea-timing) availability has revealed that the intake capacity created for pre-sea courses significantly exceeds the training berths actually available.
During the review, DG Shipping has expressed concerns that the large and rapidly growing backlog of trainee officers who have completed their pre sea courses, but are unable to get the training berths on board ships – a prerequisite for their Certificates of Competency in the entry grade, is really a matter of serious concern.
As the Directorate felt that the situation is slowly going out of its control, it has initiated action by imposing a restriction on new approvals/ increase in capacity of the one year DNS course in 2011.
It may be noted here that already there is a ban since May, 2003 on the new approvals of GP and CCMC courses.

As the maritime institutes expressed apprehensions that the effect of elusive sea-timing for trainee cadets could spell doom on their future, the DG Shipping discussed the matter in detail with the representatives of the government, Indian Maritime University and the Shipping Industry, to chalk out a viable solution.
During the meeting, members agreed that due to bottlenecks of shortage of training berths vis-à-vis the annual output of pre-sea trainees from training institutes, there is an oversupply of cadets who are yet to complete their on- board ship training.
Taking a firmer step, the DG Shipping imposed a ban on increase in capacity by restricting new approvals /increase in intake in all pre-sea courses leading to entry level Competency either at the Second Mate level or at the level of MEO Class IV, whether Foreign Going (FG) or Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) .
Though the DG Shipping banned the increase, IMU (and its affiliated institutes) still continues to admit students in DNS course, thus playing further havoc with the lives of innocent youths, who chose the seaborne career for their economic prosperity.
According to information available, the Directorate in 2006 came out with a training circular to put the onus on the training Institutes to obtain training slots at the end of the graduation, failing which they should compensate the student by return of his fees spent. Then through DGS circulars in 2007 and 2008, as a measure of relaxation, modified the strategy putting the responsibility on the training institutes to tie up with shipping companies to get training slot for their cadets, failing which they should reduce their intake.
BIG TASK AHEAD FOR NEW VC:
With the maritime educationists openly advocating for freeze in intake for DNS course until the demand-supply ratio settles at a healthy point, Mr G Raghuram, the new Vice Chancellor of Indian Maritime University, who took over the hot seat few days ago, has a big task in his hand to streamline the whole system before it breaks down due to gross mismatch.
“There is a general feeling among the maritime fraternity in the country that IMU has been in neck-deep corruption coupled with professional mismanagement and its fight for authority in the maritime education with the DG Shipping in different courts will not lead to anywhere to improve the quality of the very education,” said a senior mariner from Cochin seeking anonymity.
Under such circumstances, there is a common view among all the mariners as well as training institutes that intake for DNS course should be stopped immediately to save the shipping industry and maritime education sector, he observed.  
“Just how the university has right to start a new course, it has the same right to withdraw it based on the prevailing conditions. We, as senior mariners, urge the new Vice Chancellor to take the extra mile to save the maritime education from impending crisis,” he further added.

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