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Posted: March 28th, 2023

Addressing the Challenges of Maritime English: Current Efforts and Future Directions

Addressing the Challenges of Maritime English: Current Efforts and Future Directions

Maritime English is the dominant language used for communication in the shipping industry, with seafarers from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds using it for ship-to-ship communication and communication with port authorities. Effective communication is vital for the safe navigation and operation of ships, prevention of accidents, and response to emergencies in ports and at sea. However, the use of Maritime English as a second language has led to communication difficulties and misunderstandings, which can result in accidents and fatalities. This article discusses the current challenges facing Maritime English and the efforts being made to improve its standards.

Challenges in Maritime English
The diversity of language proficiency among crew members is one of the significant challenges facing Maritime English. While some crew members may have a high level of proficiency in English, others may have limited knowledge of the language, leading to communication difficulties and misunderstandings. Additionally, Maritime English uses shorthand and technical terms, which can be confusing for non-native speakers. Moreover, the use of Maritime English as a lingua franca has made it difficult to develop a universal standard.

Efforts to Improve Maritime English
Several initiatives have been undertaken to improve Maritime English standards. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has established guidelines and regulations for the training of seafarers in Maritime English, including the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention. The STCW Convention requires seafarers to demonstrate proficiency in Maritime English and sets standards for training and certification. Additionally, the IMO has developed the Maritime English Training Manual to provide guidance to trainers and trainees in the industry, covering various aspects of Maritime English, including pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, and communication skills.

Furthermore, some countries have established language proficiency standards for seafarers. For example, the Maritime Port Bureau in Taiwan requires seafarers to demonstrate proficiency in Maritime English and Mandarin to obtain a certificate of competency. Similarly, the United Kingdom Maritime and Coastguard Agency has established language proficiency requirements for seafarers working in UK waters.

Future Directions
While efforts have been made to address the challenges of Maritime English, there is still much work to be done. One way to address the diversity of language proficiency among crew members is to implement language assessment tests and provide language training to improve communication. Additionally, developing a universal standard for Maritime English will help to ensure that seafarers have a clear understanding of the language and reduce misunderstandings. This can be achieved by creating an international standard for Maritime English, similar to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), which provides a standard for language proficiency across Europe.

Conclusion
Maritime English is vital for the safe navigation and operation of ships, prevention of accidents, and response to emergencies at sea and in ports. However, the use of Maritime English as a second language has led to communication difficulties and misunderstandings, which can result in accidents and fatalities. The efforts made to improve Maritime English, such as the STCW Convention, the Maritime English Training Manual, and language proficiency requirements, are essential. However, there is still much work to be done, and creating a universal standard for Maritime English will help to ensure the safety of seafarers and improve communication in the shipping industry.

References:

Bloor, M., & Bloor, T. (2018). The pragmatics of international maritime English: Improving safety communication. Journal of Pragmatics, 127, 61-73.
International Maritime Organization. (2017). International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
Pikaar, R. N., Lingsma, M., & van Gulijk, C. (2014). Bar

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