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Non-EU countries supplying crews to EU-flagged vessels undergo periodic inspections by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Some may see this as outside interference, an assault even on national sovereignty. But that is just the way things are. Now, the EMSA inspectors can be a bit pedantic when it comes to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). They may nitpick, find fault in small details. The following may help maritime officials and training institutions brace themselves for the dreaded visit by EMSA:


Relax. There is no such thing as “pass” or “fail” in EMSA audits. Unlike coronavirus patients, those who have “perceived deficiencies” (a favourite EMSA phrase) won’t be quarantined.


EMSA has a systems fetish. Be sure your organisation has a QMS (Quality Management System) or some such acronym in place. Those in charge should be able to explain how it is implemented, at least in theory.


Make sure everyone concerned has read and understood the STCW provisions. The heads of organisations being inspected don’t have to, since they mercifully won’t be questioned about their STCW knowledge.


Brush up on your English. You won’t be assessed for your communication skills, but speaking in fractured English or groping for words will create a bad expression.


The EMSA team may take a close look at an organisation’s training equipment. Be sure there are no exposed wires or rats running around the place. The inspectors might freak out.


Organise a retreat where maritime bureaucrats and training providers can pray and reflect on what they have done (or not done) to give full and complete effect to the STCW convention. This could make the next EMSA visit less painful for all concerned.

~ Barista Uno

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