01 Apr 2020

Quality Standard System (QSS) For Maritime Training Institutions

Maritime training institutions (MTIs) play a key role in the overall safety of the maritime industry by ensuring only competent seafarers are certified. Quality Standard System (QSS) enable MTIs to deliver competent seafarers using a process approach to designing and delivering courses. Since the sinking of the Titanic, the world community has been concerned with the competencies of mariners on board internationally trading vessels. SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) followed by the ISM Code streamlined a lot of the requirements and expectations to ensure safe and clean seas with reduction in marine causalities. However, the ISM Code could not be designed for every type of vessel, nationalities, company and Flag State. The correct implementation is based on the interpretation by the Flag State Administrations. Very often, however, interpretation leaves loopholes which let incompetent mariners in through the cracks and consequently result in disasters sometimes. Thus the need for Quality Standard System for MTIs so seafarers from around the globe can be trusted at par for the certificates that they hold as evidence of their competence. Nothing can be a 100% but a good attempt is the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers) convention.

In 1993 together with wider acceptance and implementation of the ISM Code by IMO for internationally trading vessels, IMO embarked on a comprehensive revision of the STCW to reduce human error; a major cause of marine causalities. The 1995 conference on STCW amended the STCW convention and adopted the February 1997 amendments. Flag States including the US Coast Guard introduced requirements for maritime training institutes to be monitored. The STCW training provided is to be delivered per a Flag State accepted quality standard system (QSS). USCG NAVIC 901 of November 30, 2001 provides guidelines. Similarly other Flag States also came up with their requirements for QSS.

The STCW training required for Masters, Officers and ratings as also those activities that directly impact this training were covered. The convention recognizes that both OJT (On Job Training) and the formal training traditionally conducted for mariners needed to be monitored. Requirements for keeping a training record book or other record of training established responsibility for companies operating seagoing vessels and accepting trainees on board. Criticality of all training requires training establishments and entities to define criteria, within their Quality Standard System, and have it approved by Flag State. Systematization of this training including mandatory simulator training and the establishment of the competence requirement for the trainers became a positive development.

Implementing a QSS using a process based management system approach to the STCW training did not require re-inventing the wheel. STCW Code B-1/8 describes the requirement for a quality management system (QSS) based on ISO 9000 guidelines. To further ensure these requirements are met, IMO also introduced the IMSAS (IMO Member State Audit Scheme) audits of Flag States. The Flag States aligned their management systems to ISO 9001 including the Liberian Ship Registry and others. The USCG developed the MMS (Mission Management System) based on ISO 9001. The Quality Standard System is essentially a quality management system.

Maritime Training Institutions falling under the STCW convention are progressively aligning their training and the management systems (QSS) at the training institutes to ISO 9001. QMII as a SME (Subject Matter Expert) and a global leader in the process based management system approach and with 30 plus years of working with the maritime industry understands this. We have worked with training institutes to align their systems with ISO 9001. The Ethiopian Maritime Academy, in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia is an example. We also work with USCG on their MMS and have assisted the Trinidad and Tobago CG and many other companies.