Yuri Lavrenyuk: In The Future "Seaman's Certificate" Can Be Received Fairly And Transparently
Now about 200,000 seafarers are held hostages to corruption, who - through numerous "agents" - earned up to a million dollars a year in the form of bribes. "The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine is working in the direction of increasing competitiveness on the international marine market. The State Qualification Commission will work efficiently, no additional image and financial losses in the crewing companies, "- said Yuri Lavrenyuk during one of the meetings and added that corruption component of the State Qualification Commission will be reduced to zero. This process will be facilitated by the introduction of electronic documents’ registration and computer-based testing procedures of the candidates for maritime certificates. We asked the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine about the details.
- Yuri Fedorovych, today there is the problem of delays and cancellation of the crews’ replacement, caused by untimely release of sailors’ documents (marine certificates) in the State Qualification Commissions of the Inspection on Certification of Seafarers. There are also numerous complaints from crewing companies about low professional level of sailors who are hired to work. Was this the reason for the "scrapping" of the system?
- I will try to talk briefly about the situation in this sphere. When we examined the work of the Inspection, it was found out that the provision of services for advanced training or retraining of seafarers is closely linked with corruption risks. Our staff, together with the Security Service of Ukraine set the approximate amount of bribes, which were taken by various intermediaries, “collected” from all the sailors - from the cadets to captains. The bribes ranged from 200 to 2500 dollars.
Following these reports, appropriate checks were initiated, but at the same time - until the police began to break all these corrupt schemes - we started thinking about how to do away with these schemes forever. We talked a long time with the Minister on whether or not such an Inspection was necessary. In social networks some people offer even eliminate it altogether - as unnecessary body. However, judging from international experience, these bodies exist in each maritime State, and their activities are based on the International Convention on the Training and Certification of Seafarers and Watchkeeping 1978 (entered into force in Ukraine on the 07.04.1997). And so every sailor, every five years must confirm his qualification unless he wants to improve his skills. In order to be recognized by the world community, our sailors (and you know that many of them work on foreign ships), our diplomas and certificates should also be recognized worldwide. But recently more and more complaints are coming from crewing companies: not all the sailors with relevant documents are highly qualified. Therefore, the question is: who issues such certificates, passports of the seafarers and other documents?
-In your opinion, where are the biggest corruption risks in the current Seafarers’ Certification System?
- It should be noted that the risks were at all possible stages. Many abuses were even at the stage of filing (with the appropriate amount of bribe, one could even circumvent the "turn"). In addition, for example, if a person wanted to be a simple sailor (and for doing so one has only to pass relevant two months’ courses), then, not even being in Ukraine, for the bribe, one could get a Certificate of Courses’ Completion. This Certificate - once again, for a bribe – was confirmed in the Inspection, and then in the port’s Captain’s office (already for another, additional bribe) one could quickly receive Seaman Certificate (because the captains have to signed a Certificate). It is clear, that the quality of such training is zero, and the system of bribes is unspeakable.
- And so you decided to act ...
- The appropriate working group was established, and now we are now going to implement its work’s results.
First, we decided to switch completely to electronic documents’ management and testing procedures. As it was in the past: a sailor who had to undergo confirmation of his qualifications (or, respectively, to undergo retraining process), had to be trained in the so-called Training Center. In Ukraine there are about 62 Training Centers. By their legal form, they are private companies that have received certification from the State Security Service on transport. The majority of them is just called Centers. In fact, they are the usual rented apartments, where there are computer and printers for printing certificates. From now on it will be different - all educational institutions of Seafarers’ Training will have training classes, curricula and approved tests’ questions for qualifying exams as well as the classrooms with modern computers and equipment.
Secondly, another problem was that the regulatory functions and the order of these Centers’ activities were identified very badly. Now, these Centers will have clear criteria for technical equipment and work procedures. In particular, the minimum number of persons who are to be trained in these Centers, will be set. For example, at least a thousand people a year. In theory, after establishing new criteria, not all the Centers will fully comply with them, but nothing will prevent them from the possibility to unite and act together. By the end of 2016 all the regulations concerning the Centers - the typical position on the teaching and training activities of the Centers, about verification of their activities, etc. – will be ready. An innovation is the introduction of control of training’s quality, which is conducted by educational and training Centers.
- Under the new rules, how is the Inspection organized?
- Geographically nothing will change. The headquarters will be in Kyiv, the branches will be situated in Odessa, Nikolaev, Mariupol, Kherson and Izmail. Although instead the Inspection, now we will have the Bureau (because, in reality, this organization never performed any inspection functions). Now the submission of documents will be done only electronically - online, with no queues at all. Now it will not matter where is a sailor – he will be able to send scanned copies of documents from anywhere. Then the answer will arrive, that the documents are received, the procedure is initiated, the queue number is set and a sailor will have to come to a branch with the original documents at a specified date and time. To do away with corruption, another step will be taken: the sailors who have practical working experience (they are actually in the sea) during some time, and are able to confirm this fact by presenting respective documents, will not be trained in the Training Centers. They will be immediately addressing a State Qualification Commission.
Of course, this does not apply to the cases where a sailor, for example, wants to be the captain. Then, of course, training will be required under any conditions. Now, as to how the work of the Training Centers is updated (we are speaking about those that will remain after re- attestation). After a new group is formed in the Center for undergoing a training course (for example, 50 people want to become seafarers or confirm their qualification), they will receive on-line access - through educational and training Center - to the server with the appropriate educational tests, which will be stored only in the main office, in Kiev. It means, that a standardized program will be developed and implemented for sailors’ evaluation. It will be the same for all educational institutions conducting initial training of the specialists of water transport. The Centers will have no "specific" conditions or their own individual study programs. After training completion, the Centers will report to the Inspection (Bureau) about students’ passing the electronic test on the server.
- Is it possible to tell in detail how the on-line testing will take place?
- Where were corruption components before? During examination by the State Qualification Commission, a sailor did not even know what he would be asked about, so without a bribe it was difficult to pass the exam. After the development of standardized tests, the number of questions will be limited - they will be less than 300-400, and they will have a clear focus. For example, each test will consist of 50 questions. Each question has its equivalent in points. If one gives the right answers to all the questions, he can score 100 points. If someone gains only 50 points, he will not be admitted to the exam with the State Qualification Commission. The number of students who do not pass the test, will automatically be recorded on the main server. And according to these indicators, we will clearly see which Centers really provide a quality training, and which of them do not work properly. So, quality control will be conducted in the Training Centers. If the test result is 50 to 75 points, the sailors are assigned for the interview with the State Qualification Commission. If someone scores more than 75 points – the procedure at the State Qualification Commission will be considered as completed automatically. By the way, the reports of the State Qualification Commission will not have to be received personally, because the results of the State Qualification Commission will automatically be sent on-line to the respective captains, who will define the date and time when the seafarer should come for his personal documents. A sailor will be informed about it using on-line mode.
- Who now forms the State Qualification Commission?
- In fact, in its form as it is today, the State Qualification Commission is not purely a State body, because Commissions include captains, scientists and other people on a temporary basis. We will change all the State Qualification Commissions - in the personal composition and the method of their formation. The State Qualification Commission’s members will work on a regular basis - they will be experienced professionals, who meet certain criteria, and only then we can call the State Qualification Commission a public body.
- Will this online revolution in the system of certification and re-training of seafarers be costly in financial terms?
- Absolutely not. The Inspection has filed financial plan. Already in 2017 the embedded value of all the servers that will be placed in the central office of the Inspection is foreseen and embedded in it. Specialists are already working on educational programs, on tests’ questions, on information base’s creation. By the way, one time I was very surprised that the registry of sailors is a closed database, we will change this situation - and the registry will be opened.
- How is the Inspection’s reorganization important for Ukraine?
- You know, in 2018 in Ukraine the audit of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will be carried out – it is a specialized agency of the United Nations, which takes care of navigation safety. And its conclusions about the level of established evaluation of sailors’ skills are very important. If we do not pass the audit, certificates of our sailors will no longer be recognized abroad/ And it means that Ukrainian sailors will lose the opportunity to obtain high-paid jobs.
Therefore, it is necessary to finish off with this corruption ball and assure that the activity of the Inspection (Bureau) is transparent, efficient and clear. Resistance is already fierce, as many people who "earned" a lot on seafarers’ certifications’ schemes will go away, but we will not retreat and will bring the case to the end, like it or not. Because we must defend the image of Ukraine as a maritime nation - we must do it!