Disclosure: I derive a part of my income from the maritime education and training industry. Nevertheless.
When something is unsustainable, it falls apart eventually. Like the crony capitalist economic system that is today imploding across the world. Or, more pertinently to shipping, the present maritime training setup in India that has been going downhill ever since the STCW95 fiasco and the diarrhoeic deluge of third rate Maritime Education and Training(MET) establishments in this country (and others too, but let us stick to us). The resultant plunging MET spiral was inevitable and has been in process for close to two decades by now, underscored by blatant, rampant and unbridled corruption in administration and industry, greed, callous neglect, tumefied egoism and simple cussedness shown by all involved stakeholders.
The MET assembly line is now falling apart- it is dying, actually. There are few takers for its substandard product, and, while the pimps that proliferate in the street and in shipping offices will continue to ensnare the gullible for some more time, the priest should be called in, because it will soon be time for the reading of the last rites. New STCW conventions will not do anything. There is only so much rouge one can put on a syphilitic streetwalker; there comes a point when the disease cannot be hidden any longer. That point has arrived for MET.
The impending death of the present maritime education circus will be a good thing; I shall not mourn its passing, because I believe that we need to destroy the diseased system first in order to rebuild. There is a risk, of course, that we may not get order out of the resultant chaos once we destroy. But if we don't destroy, there is an absolute certainty of the lingering death of the patient with no chance of resurrection.
While everybody has their own differing thoughts on overhauling MET, all recipes have three recommendations in common- a) Dramatically improve structure and delivery of all maritime education- and, thereby, quality of product; b) Guarantee on-board training and c) Do not promote distance learning programmes (DLPs- or KLPDs, as I uncharitably and crudely call them) at the expense of seatime.
(There are some other common thoughts that resonate in addition, but they are broadly covered by these three basics. For example, a) would cover making pre sea education practical and relevant as well as re-examining useless STCW courses, b) would cover the tonnage tax regime and the need to take in only those trainees that the industry can place, c) would cover the primacy of experience over an academic certificate, and so on.)
By the way, I welcome death of the present MET patient over the option of its 'treatment' for another reason- I believe that corruption and greed will ensure that treatment will never work. The training institute will always want to just fill its seats, hang employment or on board training of its graduates. The touts - whether in government or private industry- will always want to protect their commissions. The egotistic in national and international administrations will always want to expand their fiefdoms and justify their existence, such as it is. The (somewhat grandiosely called) shipmanagement chop shop will usually want to get trained people free.
It will require mortal struggle by a handful of intrepid visionaries just to knock down the present rotting edifice; to change it from within will require years of single-minded effort, with the existing gang fighting you every step of the way with every weapon in their arsenal - legal, political, industrial and even criminal. Therefore 'treatment' cannot be done. Actually I am not even sure that we have, within the diseased system, enough integrity left to let the present seafarer factory die, or enough fortitude left to withstand screaming MET establishments, disgruntled pimps or the sound of the explosion of punctured egos if the system is dismantled.
But die it must, so we can protect five thousand years of maritime heritage, not to speak of times more recent when Indian seafarers built, brick by brick, a reputation that is now being cast to the wind. Not to speak of jobs for Indians or other spin off benefits to India, its economy, its industry and its people.
So there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the present MET assembly line must die so it can be reborn and restart afresh. Along with this must die the touts, the indurate, the obstructionists, the out-of-date and the egotists, for the dishonour they bring down upon all of us is worse than death.