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35th AGM Address of the President IMEI

 

35Th AGM Address Of The President IMEI 1000

 

Address by the President, C V Subba Rao

Immediate Past President, Shri Dilip Mehrotra, Honorable recipients of the R L Jain memorial lifetime achievement award,  Shri Hari Taneja, Shri I M Rao and Shri D R Padalkar, Honorable recipient of H S Rao Memorial award, Shri A K Ramanujam, my fellow office bearers, Shri Uday Purohit, Shri K K Nair, Immediate Past Vice President, Shri Vijendra Jain, Hon Editor MER, Shri Hrishikesh Narasimhan, Members of the Governing Council, Chairmen, office bearers & staff of this Institute’s Branches and Chapters, Honorable Past Presidents, Past Vice Presidents, Past Hon General Secretaries and Distinguished Members of this august body:

 

At the outset, I am grateful for the support of the Council and all the members of this Institute. Let me wish you all and your families a very happy festive season ahead.

 

As we all can see, Mumbai is putting its heart and soul into hosting the mega event, INMARCO 2018.  I am also pleased to inform you that 4 of our Fellows and 2 of our Student members’ papers have been accepted for presentation at WMTC (World Maritime Technology Conference), Shanghai in December 2018. The Institute congratulates them and has offered them reimbursement of their expenses to and fro Shanghai.

 

You would be aware that our Institute is on the Govt. of India Panel for IMO STCW and MEPC discussions. Shri Rajeev Nayyer is empanelled with STCW and Shri S M Rai and lately, Shri C P K Kashyap with MEPC.

 

Earlier this year in March, at an elegant ceremony in Mumbai, we inducted into our fold, Shri. Shashi Ruia (Chairman, The ESSAR Group), Shri. K M Sheth (Chairman, Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd.) and Shri N Sankar (Chairman, The Sanmar Group), as Honorary Fellows.

 

Before I proceed further, I would like to say a word on Safety. I am part of Shell Partners CEO Senior Leadership program, where I picked up two phrases: Chronic Unease and Anticipated Regret. Safety and its implementation rides on these two nuggets of wisdom. We could inculcate this mental model within the organizations we work for in our endeavour to improve the overall safety of our people and our shareholders’ assets.

 

I proposed “TARGET 2020”, built around the three pillars, when I took over last year:

  1. Learning
  2. Technology
  3. Disruption

 

Learning

Mark Twain once said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education”. In India, education is synonymous with obtaining a degree. For some reason, our culture has not understood the dignity of labour.  We have never fully recognized a highly skilled and diligent workman. Real learning and education happens only when we have the courage to implement an aptitude fit admission processes, well trained faculty and a challenging curriculum. I have discussed this with the offices of DG Shipping, with mixed results.

On another note, I have been working with University of Mumbai on the issue of engineering degree equivalence, since 2015, which would give recognition to many in the fraternity.

 

Technology

I have spoken of Technology a year ago, which as we know is evolving by the day. I repeat what I said last year. Is our curriculum, the faculty and the examination for the Certificate of Competency (CoC) in line with the modern day ship operation? Could we look at it differently?  The real learning is in working with one’s hands. A young engineer would grow to be a lot more competent if a greater proportion of his learning constitutes spending more time on board modern day ships, and less time studying and being examined by engineers who left sea years ago? Leave it to the people on board; let the examinations be limited to compliance issues. In our building here, we are now very close to obtaining a modern fully functioning engine simulator, which could be used to train sea going engineers. We have to link this to the competency examination process.

 

Disruption

The Institute must play an active role in disruption of our practices. Let me explain:

 

The Trace of History:

History suggests that there are four generations or people listed as of today: 

  1. The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (73- 90 years old)
  2. The Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (54 -72 years old)
  3. Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (38-53 years old)
  4. The Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old)

 

The Silent Generation was born during an era of wars and freedom struggles. They grew up in austerity, with values relating to hard work, perseverance and lofty ideals. The Baby Boomers, have been brought up in relative peace and comfort, given good education, and grew up looking for employment in the government or public sector.

 

However, it was the institutions like the T S Dufferin, DMET (now MERI) or T S Rajendra which attracted the bolder young from these two generations. These young people found adventure, romance and compensation (much above shore careers) compelling enough to try a sea career. Interestingly, only a career in cricket and cinema appeared to have more glamour. And, as all of us would agree, the nation churned out some of the finest marine engineers in the world, who in time graced the highest echelons of not only the shipping industry, but even other sectors, such as hospitality and manufacturing.

 

As often, it happens in life between two sets of generations, there is one which is caught between the two strings, conservatism and modernity. The Generation X. It stretched the imagination of the Baby Boomers and created space for the Millennials to emerge. Generation X held the fort together, as the industry chugged along with the marine field as a good employment avenue, and thus continued to attract talent.

 

The Pessimism of the Present day

The advent of information and communications technology (not to mention finance & management) pitchforked a new avenue of employment into the field. It offered jobs ashore, reasonable compensation, good social life and self-esteem. Thus, this sector weaned away many of the Gen X and lately, the Millennials.

 

The marine engineer of today has to combat other issues too:

  1. While adventure seems intact, minimum port stays (and the issues of shore leave) due to faster turnaround of ships, lower levels of manning and absence of families on board has adversely impacted the social fabric and behaviour on board.
  2. Other than the Indian flagged ships, most foreign flagged ships are operated with 4 engineers. That means, of the 10 officers on board, 4 would be engineers and 6 navigating officers. This also means, the engineers’ shore leave is hampered and there are more than enough reports to suggest that while deck officers are able to step ashore, engineers are finding it difficult to have a breather.
  3. Employment prospects have been affected severely, and the mushrooming of private colleges, many with poor facilities, made matters worse. Thus, young talent has begun drifting away from a sea career, especially marine engineering.

The Optimism of the Future

The millennial engineer has a very low self-esteem and is looked down upon by the fraternity, comprising the Baby Boomers and Gen X; who are clouded with the halo of their years of glory, and the perception that the young do not match up on skills. In short, there is a strong sense of pessimism within the senior marine engineers in the fraternity.

 

Pessimism invites caution at work, and improves safety standards.

 

As the saying goes, "In all pessimism, there is wisdom, but it's sterile. In all optimism, there is madness, but it is creative."

 

We have to bring the optimism back into the life of a marine engineer. It would need deconstruction of our thought processes, and importantly, admit that the generation of Baby Boomers and Generation X, have failed to leave a lasting legacy for their profession.

 

No society can consider itself good, if its 72 years olds are employed, but its 24 year olds are not!

 

We have to look ourselves in the mirror. The day we do that, it could be apocalyptic, but at least we will have a shot at salvation and redemption. 

 

We are following all the rules, but somewhere down the line, the principles are forgotten.

 

Thank you

Jai Hind

 

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