Published in Sagar Sandesh Weekly edition dtd: 9/1/2013
Like many things, maritime education too has changed. Earlier the emphasis was on training, today with pre-sea being degree course, the emphasis has shifted to education, says Dr. Brijendra Kumar Saxena, President of Institute of Marine Engineers (India), the topmost body of Indian mariners to promote the scientific development of Marine Engineering in all its branches and in the furtherance of such knowledge.
In a freewheeling interview with Sagar Sandesh, Dr BK Saxena, the man who always vouched for giving more and more to improve the mariners’ knowledge base, spoke about the current situation in the industry.
Excerpts of the interview.
-Tell us about your background and experience as seafarer?
Dr B K Saxena: I passed out from DMET, Calcutta in 1968 and joined Jayanti Shipping and
automatically came in SCI on its merger. I left sailing in 1982 and joined head office of SCI in early 1983. Sailing was fun that time and we really worked hard and also enjoyed. That time the ships were like our homes as each of my ship I worked on was for more than 12 months. Today’s seafarers are doing a wonderful job in such difficult environment.
-What is the current situation of maritime education in India?
BKS: Like many things, maritime education too has changed. Earlier the emphasis was on
training. Today with pre-sea being degree course, the emphasis has shifted to education. This requires a very balanced approach by the senior leaders in maritime education and training. Unfortunately this remains a grey area.
-Has the education evolved over the years as per the industry demand? What are the
avenues that have to be included in the Indian maritime education to develop world class engineers?
BKS: Yes, with changing times the maritime education and training has evolved and modified. I am not sure if this change is as per the needs of the industry. The issue is, has industry indicated its needs clearly to the training providers. The only point we hear is about attitude. However, we don’t acknowledge the fact that social values across the country have changed and the outlook of the youngsters is very different today. As far as a developing world class engineer is concerned the education providers have to be really serious in ensuring that the syllabus, which is very good, is truly covered.
-How do you compare the maritime education institutes in India with their foreign counterparts like EU nations, Australia, USA etc?
BKS: I think there is substantial emphasis on teaching modern shipboard technology. I have seen pre sea institutes in Poland, Russia, Sweden, UK, Singapore and Philippines in recent past. Interestingly none of them give any importance to the semi-regimented regime which is so much liked and referred in India.
-Do you think there is a real mismatch or demand and supply gap exists in Indian maritime sector?
BKS: No doubt the supply, especially at junior level, is much higher than the demand.
-While Shipping Ministry says there is a huge demand for seafarers; ground report says they are surplus. Which is the correct version?
BKS: Yes, there is still demand for employable seafarers. However, not all our seafarers are employable.
-What policy changes you would expect from the Ministry of Shipping to improve maritime training sector in India?
BKS: It should work towards increasing awareness of the career of seafaring in the country. The information must include correct picture of the institutes regarding its facilities, placement records etc. We must get better input for our pre-sea programs. It may also give the job of monitoring the institutes to professional bodies like Institute of Marine Engineers (India) and Company of Master Mariners and make them accountable.
-Of late, it has emerged that DNS programme by IMU has damaged the healthy scenario of demand and supply in the industry. What is your view on the issue?
BKS: There is no doubt about that. With limited onboard training slots the pass outs have no possibility of completing their required sea service and in the absence of any formal qualification they remain 12th pass and short of couple of lakhs given as fees, may be after taking loan.
-What changes do you see in the younger generation of seafarers now, as compared to your time?
BKS: The young generation of seafarers is coming from the young generation of people within the country and therefore the traits are common. The young of today are less tolerant, individualistic, with adjustment difficulties, technology savvy but still with less confidence. They are also more materialistic.
-Tell us about your some unforgettable onboard experience?
BKS: It was very long time back. Only point I would like to mention is that due to lack of timely communication, we had to take decisions and not rely for inputs from others. This made us very confident.