The STCW Office Advisory Council officially started its thorough review of the existing theoretical and assessment procedures of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

This after an order was issued by the MARINA Board during its meeting last 18 January or about six months after it formed the Advisory Council in August last year.

The move was announced by Atty. Vera Joy Ban-eg, Officer-In-Charge of the STCW Office during the “Usapang STCW” held at AMOSUP Convention Center in Intramuros, Manila where she also announced the findings of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) during the March 2017 inspection. One of the issues it raised has something to do with the Administration’s theoretical examinations and assessment of the Filipino officer.

The MARINA Board chaired by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, approved the terms of reference (TOR) of the Advisory Council in 18 January.

According to Ban-eg, the Board also approved the number of members of the Council and it was limited to nine (9) members. Originally, when it was formed in August 2017, the Council has seven (7) members, but there were plans to expand to 15 by former Administrator CE Marcial Amaro III.

“Two (of the remaining 9 members) would come from the MARINA Board; and of the seven (7) remaining, there was a specific instruction to review (them) baka kailangang mag-change o mag add ng bago (if there’s need to change or add new members),” Ban-eg explained.

Currently, the members of the Council include Capt. Constantino Arcellana, Jr., Capt. Victor Del Prado, Capt. Ronaldo Enrile, Engr. Sammuel Lim, Capt. Emerico Gepilano, Atty. Odette Dalisay, and Mr. Manny Rivera.

During the forum, Ban-eg said that there was no specific TOR when they were appointed in August 2017 adding, “what is important, the duties, powers and functions of the Council have been specified” during the Board meeting.

The STCW OIC recalled that Republic Act No. 10635 that designated MARINA as the government agency responsible for the enforcement of the 1978 STCW Convention, as amended, provides for the creation of the Council.

“The Board also approved the creation of a review committee to be led by the Advisory Council to conduct a comprehensive review of the questionnaires of the theoretical exams which is part of the assessment procedures of MARINA,” Ban-eg furthered.

She said that the Board approved the proposal of the STCW Office to conduct a study of existing MARINA exams and assessment procedures with the purpose of establishing concrete basis for the enhancement of the exam and assessment systems.

This directly addresses of the issues raised by the European Commission. In its report, it noted that the assessment of competence conducted by MARINA is defective; it does not ensure that all candidates for Certificate of Competence (COC) meet the prescribed standards of competence of the STCW Convention.

The EMSA inspection team also observed specific shortcomings including what it described as “the Board of Examiners did not follow the approved quality procedure for validation of questions to be uploaded into the database”.

 It also noted that lowering the ‘pass mark’ and not ‘varying the level of knowledge, understanding and proficiency’ for candidates applying for the COCs on ships with limited GT or propulsion power did not ensure that the standard of competence prescribed in Section A-II/2 and A-III/3 of the STCW Code were fully demonstrated.

 The number of questions available in the database system for each competence subject to assessment (25-29) did not fully ensure the comprehensive evaluation, taking into account the number of questions randomly generated for competence in a test (20).

 The computer-based system was not able to ensure a uniform level of difficulty for all candidates because there was no differentiation between the very easy questions and the most difficult.

 The relevance of some questions to the competence subject being evaluated, and their difficulty associated with the operational or management level, could not be fully demonstrated. Similar questions within the database could be generated in the same questionnaire.

 The Board of Officers could not demonstrate that they established criteria for the validation of scenarios used on simulators to ensure a uniform level of assessment throughout all assessment centers.

 MARINA could not demonstrate that it had established criteria to be used by examiners in the oral examinations of candidates for certification as ETO (electro-technical officers).

These flaws were still noted by the Commission despite the fact that MARINA had already submitted its Voluntary Correction Action Plan to EMSA in September 2017 with the particular objective of addressing these issues.

This only showed that MARINA’s proposed corrective actions also suffer from serious deficiencies, the European Commission further commented.

“It was not possible to establish whether the intended corrective measures fully address the identified shortcomings as either no appropriate supporting evidence was enclosed to allow their verification or further clarification are needed on the measures taken.”

However, Ban-eg clarified that MARINA’s move to conduct a review of its exams and assessment systems by the Advisory Council is not solely in response to EMSA. She said that whether or not there’s an EMSA inspection or IMO audit, they (MARINA) need to do something.

“We need to unite and work together for our seafarers and the assessment is one of the critical areas that we need to look into,” Ban-eg stressed.

She vowed that the review of MARINA’s assessment systems would happen this year and this is not a mere drawing and the industry can expect that. (With reports from Seaway)

Buhay Marino Dyaryo is published monthly by SEAFARERS MARITIME MEDIA, INC.

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