TRAINING SCF GRANT-AIDED CADETS TO TAKE MARLINS EXAM

Liudmila N. Anufrieva Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, Vladivostok Aleksei Yu. Strelkov Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, Vladivostok Elena A. Trofimova Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, Vladivostok

Abstract:This paper is aimed at analyzing the work done in providing training activities to SCF grant-aided cadets (3rd and 4th year cadets of seafaring program tracks of the Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University, namely navigating, marine engineering and electrical engineering cadets) to sit for ICS Marlins English Language Test for Seafarers. It is suggested that the experience gained by Language Training Dept professors in using electronic language tests within the Kurs Learning Management System (LMS) of the University has proved to be of relevance in teaching how to get ready to take this internationally-recognized system of examining future mercantile officers’ language proficiency. Special attention has been paid to such types of tests that make it possible to form skills needed to maintain professionally-oriented communication and provide for getting ready to successfully pass the ICS Marlins English Language Test for Seafarers. The relevance of the research is accounted for by the drastic changes towards intensifying out-of-class learning against the background of reduction in class-room academic hours, rather low average level of the English language proficiency shown by the entrants to seafaring program tracks, as well as by the common Maritime Education and Training (MET) trend to transit from full-time mode of studies to blended one, and therefore towards wider usage of online tests in classroom and distantly. The authors have considered the types of testing used in practical work.  Types of tests used both in the ICS Marlins English Language Test for Seafarers and in the Language Training Dept activities as well as assessment outcomes have been demonstrated. Issues of disparities between the ICS Marlins English Language Tests and those used by Language Dept teachers have been given consideration. The problem of content that may be different in both instances has also been reviewed, as well as some other challenges met. Emphasis is laid upon the option of shortening the time needed to monitor the degree of the English language competences through the use of online tests. The idea that formative testing provides not just for monitoring the progress in retention of the study material, but also for teaching and learning is proposed. It is found out that introduction of electronic language tests releases time for mastering cadets’ communication skills, saves time in classroom. The authors are certain that there is a need for continuing developing and using such forms of electronic testing that will make it possible to form skills for efficient profession-oriented language and to prepare to pass Marlins Test successfully.Keywords: Marlins English Language Test, Learning Management System (LMS), Maritime English, online testing, formative test, content of test, task rubrics  

Maritime industry has been undergoing dramatic changes in recent years due to some factors. There’s a continuous trend of development from a manned ship where there are some automated processes and decision support, to a remote ship where there are seafarers on board and the ship is controlled and operated from another location, further to an automated ship where there are no seafarers on board and the ship is controlled and operated from another location, and finally to an autonomous ship where the operating system of the ship is able to make decisions and determine actions by itself. [1] COVID-2019 pandemic has affected the volume of global shipping and the seafaring manpower to a very considerable degree. [2]. However, regardless of the above and of some political turmoil, one thing across the shipping industry remains unchanged, i.e. shortage of officers. According to the latest five-year BIMCO/ICS Manpower Report a serious future shortage in the supply of seafarers is forecast [3].  The report identifies a current shortfall of about 16,500 officers (2.1%), but a need for an additional 147,500 officers by 2025 to service the world merchant fleet. It is stated that supply of officers globally is expected steadily, but this is predicted to be outpaced by increasing demand. Some officer categories are in especially short supply, including engineer officers at management level and officers needed for specialized ships such as chemical, LNG and LPG carriers. According to the report in the past five years the industry has made good progress with increasing recruitment and training levels and reducing officer wastage (i.e. retaining qualified seafarers and increasing the number of years which they serve at sea). But it is indicative of, unless training levels are increased significantly, generating a serious shortage in the total supply of officers caused by the growth in demand for seafarers. China is believed to have overtaken the Philippines as the largest single source of seafarers qualified for international trade, the Philippines still being the largest source of ratings. However, data from international shipping companies suggests that the extent to which Chinese seafarers are available for international service may be more limited, with the Philippines and Russia seen as equally important sources of officers. The report concludes that without continuing efforts to promote careers at sea and improve levels of recruitment and retention, it cannot be guaranteed that there will be an abundant supply of seafarers in the future.[4]   In the light of this the program for training grant-aided cadets of the Admiral Nevelskoy Maritime State University in taking ICS Marlins English Language Test for Seafarers as sponsored by Sovcomflot is not out of place. MSU Language Training Dept teachers have developed and delivered the program in late 2022 and early 2023 to face some challenges and obtain quite meaningful results. The program named Maritime English for SCF Grant-aided Cadets comprises the following sections: Section I. Communication aboard Ships with Multi-national Crews, Section II. Examining and Interviewing the Applicants, Section III. Examining Seafarers’ Competences in Maritime English by means of ICS Marlins English Language Test.  Section I is focused on the construction of knowledge and development of skills in communicating in English in a multi-national crew environment. Trainees, numbered 41 and representing navigating, marine engineering and electrical engineering program tracks studied certain cultural peculiarities and accents of English by Filipino, Indian, British, Swedish etc. seafarers. In particular, they were welcomed to discuss the following questions: How does my behavior affect other people? What can I do to improve the situation? What are our differences? What are our similarities? How do we work together in the best way? How can we communicate in a better way? How can we prevent misunderstandings?

The course teachers are unanimous in the opinion that upon competing Section I trainees have by all means increased their cultural awareness, thus getting closer to communication in an efficient manner.

Section II is designed to get trainees acquainted with various maritime specialist testing systems, e.g. CES, procedures for being interviewed by manning agencies, resume preparation rules. On completing Section II trainees have gained necessary knowledge on the methods used by the assessors to see the level of the English language proficiency candidates for a trainee / crew member position have.

It is understood that it is Section III that makes up the core of the Maritime English for SCF Grant-aided Cadets course as it coverICS Marlins English Tests for Seafarers in detail and is centered on taking sample tests as compiled by the Language Training Dept professors. 

Marlins Test is commonly considered to be one of the most popular online testing systems aimed at assessing the level of seafarer English language proficiency. Marlins is an internationally registered trademark of Seatec UK Limited, founded in 1994 in a pursuit to set the standards of English language training for the crews world-wide. Marlins seems to be the only requirement by plenty of shipping and crewing companies as far as the fluency in English is concerned.

ICS Marlins English Tests for Seafarers contains over 2,000 questions that are randomly arranged into test suites of 60 questions divided into 5 sections: Listening, Time and Numbers, Grammar, Vocabulary and Reading. Previously used Pronunciation section has been omitted.         

It should be stressed that Language Training Dept teachers have been using tests in teaching and assessment for a long time. One of the driving forces in this direction is the urgent necessity for a Maritime English teacher to tailor teaching and learning in such a manner that as much knowledge and skills can be input to trainees within rather compressed period of time. Methodologists share the opinion that ongoing changes into curricula and academic course working plans, academic competences and professional ones, reduction in classroom hours and increase in hours allotted to independent studies, nonconcurrence of vocation-related working plans and these of the foreign language have led to this situation [5]. Tests provide the way out, and Language Training Dept teachers have embedded these into their manuals, which can be exemplified by “English for Marine Engineers” textbook [6]:

The authors agree that tests can be classified on the basis of their function and use at an appropriate stage of teaching / assessment process: current ones taken within studies; periodical test, taken at a certain stage of study process and usually coinciding with completion of a certain unit or topic; global ones summarizing a lengthier period of studies. [7].  

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