On-Line exams for Certificates of Competency
As the clamor for holding examinations for certificates of competency (COC) on-line took on a strident pitch, head honchos and leading lights of the maritime trade especially from manning agents, training institutes, ship owners, classification societies and a large number of mariners attending the conference of the Company of Master Mariners of India (CMMI) last week extended staunch support to the move as it would bring solace to budding seafarers and the trade.
It was an effort on the part of the CMMI to put things in their proper perspective and to clear the air about any misgivings while arriving at a consensus on the issue. The panel discussion that evoked an extensive response from the large gathering clearly indicated that it was an opportune time to set the ball rolling in this regard as it could bring about a quantum leap in changing the present state of affairs.
Whatever be the criteria for assessment of marine officers to ascertain their competence, aptitude, skill-sets, etc., the on-line system was clearly seen as the right option. In fact many participants at the conference stressed that the on-line examination system could be more powerful since persons who secured their COC this way would be able to undertake various jobs on board resourcefully having demonstrated their basic knowledge and skills.
Dr B. K. Saxena, Principal of Tolani Maritime Institute stated, “All requirements for COC exams can easily be accommodated in the on-line exam process without sacrificing or compromising any of these requirements. A question bank of 7000 can be created and this has been demonstrated by some classification societies in their on-line assessment examination. Quite a number of training institutes have switched over to the on-line system of examination and every year more and more questions are being added. All examiners are certain about the candidates having passed on-line exams that they can perform competently while on board.”
Capt J. S. Uppal, Principal Officer, MMD Kandla, Directorate General of Shipping, however expressed difficulty in switching to oral interviews on-line and he felt these should be conducted on a personal 1 to 1 basis.
Giving a contrary picture Capt K. Vivekanand Pro Vice Chancellor of VELS University, Chennai, asserted, “Every aspect of the exam should be on-line. We already have all written examinations on-line including oral interviews. We can test a candidate even on engineering drawings. What was tested traditionally on the drawing board is being now done through CAD & CAM.”
Capt H. Subramaniam, Marine Examination Advisor to the Republic of the Marshall Islands informed that he has come across several candidates who are able to perform excellently well on board while in an interview they go to pieces. This can be either because of their poor knowledge of English and their tendency to get nervous being unable to communicate in English, but in an emergency they are able to perform and convey the required information very well. Even to test a person’s knowledge of drawing can be done by showing a number of different drawings and asking the person to either identify the mistakes or point out the correct drawing.”
Several other issues came into focus during the discussions. Video conferencing was found to be an option available to the administration to conduct interviews without the candidates having to present themselves at the designated place which is often far from their base of operation.
In the on-line system of examination, candidates can be tested from anywhere on the globe. This helps to control the cost, travel time, etc. Exams are undertaken faster and the on-line system helps to exercise better control and enhance safety and security.
It is a pathetic situation to see candidates who appear for interviews being kept waiting outside the interviewer’s cabin for hours and sometimes practically the whole day. Since the directorate is severely short staffed and already much of the work has been outsourced to classification societies especially the Indian Register of Shipping, the on-line system of examination for COCs would certainly be a boon not only for the maritime administration but also to the future seafarers. The case now rests with the Indian Maritime Administrator.