Professional English Skills in Maritime Jobs

Categories: English Language

Learning and being efficient in ME is a big requirement for employment, but several researchers find that graduates rarely fulfil this requirement. Students after graduation do not meet the English requirements of the employers (Hoa and Mai, 2016). We found this picture in maritime countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and China. The graduates in Indonesia cannot compete to seek jobs with job seekers from other countries because of their poor English (Indonesian Shipping Gazette, 2006). We found the same situation in China.

Ship owners often complain of Chinese sailors’ poor English or send them back because of their low levelled English (Shen and Wang, 2011, p.176).

Employers would spend more money on hiring Indian or Philippines with a good English level. Since the ship owners test sailors’ oral English competency, the students concentrate on paper-based exams, ignoring listening, speaking and writing (Shen and Wang, 2011). Again, Hozayen, Seddeek and Ghoneim (2010) report that seafarers in Arab regions face many problems in using English efficiently at the workplace.

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Yen (2008) conducted a study in Taiwan and found that the maritime freshmen’s English ability is on the primary level of maritime English and so their English ability still has to be improved. The English learning weakness of our maritime freshmen as identified by the researcher is the vocabulary and grammar. The general English in the maritime context is helpful to the freshmen to link up the maritime ESP.

To develop the learning and teaching materials, the needs of the maritime cadets and graduates have to be identified.

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Many studies have been conducted to identify professional needs in the maritime sector. Dirgeyasa (2018) conducted a study on 48 participants who were seafarers, port authorities, shipping business employees, English lecturers and cadets. The researcher analyzed the needs of the maritime English learning materials for the nautical students of a maritime academy in Indonesia. The researcher found that listening and speaking were ‘strongly needed’ when the seafarers worked onboard, whereas reading and writing were also necessary.

Among these needs, the researcher finds that SMCP and translation are strongly needed (Dirgayasa, 2018). The other strongly needed contents as identified by the researcher were navigational routes and geographical location, nautical direction, standard helm order, ship system and stability, visual communication and nautical measurement, navigation instrument and equipment, distress communication, and Vessel Traffic Service (VTS). The researcher mentions that the writing works are done by seafarers at the management level.

Ahmmed (2018) conducted a secondary study titled ‘The Approaches of Teaching and Learning Maritime English: Some Factors to Consider’. In this study, the researcher identifies two kinds of needs for maritime students- academic and professional. The professional needs identified by the researcher are using VHF radio on board, using maritime vocabulary and terminologies, communicating to multicultural nationalities and port authority, negotiating with foreign employers, taking part in inter-ship and intra-ship communication from ship to shore and shore to ship, and giving instructions to passengers when an emergency occurs. The researcher also mentions that the graduates have to respond to both formal and informal emails, prepare reports, interact with the clients and colleagues and attend department meetings (Ahmmed, 2018, p.111)

Mercado, Mogol, Sarmiento, & Jalbuena (2018) conducted a study titled ‘The Philippine context of the teaching and learning of Maritime English’. The researchers mentioned that the communicative functions of English are basic for survival at sea and that the job of maritime graduates requires communicating the people of different nationalities. This study suggests that the curriculum should include the use of maritime English and SMCP for dealing with safety and emergencies. The researchers identified the needs of the learners in two categories- elementary English and intermediate English.

The needs of learners enlisted in this study for elementary English are practising VHF radio exchange procedures, understanding commands in emergency situations on board, VHF radio communications regarding bunkering, reporting incidents at sea, describing safety equipment, reporting events from past voyages, asking for and giving personal data, describing crew roles and routines, requesting medical help, describing weather, checking supplies, discussing food onboard/ordering meals. The researchers also enlist the needs of the learners for Intermediate English and these are understanding the cultural norms of different nationalities, taking and delivering messages accurately via VHF radio, giving instructions to passengers in the event of an emergency, describing procedures for survival at sea, showing awareness of how cross-cultural issues can affect teamwork at sea, reporting damage caused by bad weather at sea, discussing aspects of safety and risks in the workplace, describing how machinery operates, confirming arrangements for joining a ship, describing measures for ensuring vessel security, describing mechanical breakdown and repair.

Aeni, Jabu, Rahman, Ismail, & Tahir (2018) identified students’ needs for developing a General Maritime English (GME) instructional course in Indonesia. The researchers found a high demand for materials that could prepare the students to have good communication skills, to be equipped to work in the international maritime industries. They mentioned that although the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in English are important, the students placed productive skills (writing and speaking) as their highest priority and their vocabulary was limited to the technical vocabulary related to their major as seafarers (Dirgayasa, 2014) The students have to fulfil the industry requirements to work in the maritime sector. Ahmmed’s study (2017) titled ‘The Difficulties of Maritime Communication and the Roles of English Teachers’ is mentionable. The researcher referred that the maritime graduates and cadets of the maritime university and Bangladesh Marine Academy will join the maritime sector soon after the completion of their degrees and they have to have a good proficiency in English as required by the maritime industries of Bangladesh (Ahmmed, 2017).

Song & Xiao (2016) conducted a study titled ‘On the Principles for Compiling Maritime English Textbooks’ and found that the maritime English course design should satisfy the special needs of the industry. So, maritime English textbook construction should adhere to the principle of cultivation in students’ four skills e.g. listening, speaking, reading, writing and translation. The textbooks should also incorporate the linguistic theories, teaching concepts and the understanding of classroom teaching and students’ learning, so that the students will continue to improve their English levels in learning the special knowledge. All seafarers across the world have to have minimum and equal competence in English (Dirgayasa, 2014). The seafarers use marine communication phrases in both ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication (Kovacevic, 2014).

Chang (2011) conducted an English language needs analysis on Taiwanese maritime university students at National Taiwan Ocean University. The researcher found that listening and speaking are emphasized in maritime domains. The graduates need specific English competences such as giving and understanding the VHF (Very High-Frequency Radio Communication) messages during distress and urgency communication, calling upon and responding to the VTS (Vessel Traffic Service) and pilotage, and giving and understanding the operative ship handling orders such as the engine and helm orders. Along with these needs, the seafarers also required social needs such as having conversations and personal information exchanges with their multinational crew members or workers at the seaports in different countries.

Pritchard (2003) conducted a study titled ‘Maritime English syllabus for the modern seafarer: comprehensive or safety-related courses?’ The researcher suggested that ME syllabus should include topics of international maritime law and law of the sea, shipping and port operations, port planning, marine environment, coastal environment protection information technology, etc. (e.g. handing over a navigational watch, entering/passing a VTS area and calling at a port, applying IMO reporting procedures, operating & maintenance instructions for machinery, gears, equipment, engine-room fault finding and troubleshooting, etc.).

IMO (2015) developed ‘Maritime English Model Course 3.17’ in response to the generally identified needs to assist the training institution of the developing countries. This course attempts to fulfil the maritime English competences it contains two sections namely General Maritime English (GME) and Specialized Maritime English (SME). Although this model course is widely accepted, Eliasson and Gabrielli (2015) says ME courses designed anywhere may differ from other parts of the world due to learners’ respective needs and prerequisites. Similarly, Yongliang (2015) conducted a study titled ‘From General Maritime English to Specific Maritime English-Some Thought on the Revision to the 2009 Edition of IMO Maritime English Model Course 3.17’ and suggests that Maritime English Model Course be revised based on the students’ needs.

Form these maritime researchers we noticed that many maritime students cannot fulfil the requirements of the maritime industries at the time of their employments because they do not gain such English skills. Second, the past researchers have attempted to find out the list of the professional English skills in maritime jobs but their findings vary from one country to another. Third, among the four language skills, researchers have given importance on speaking and listening. Most importantly, speaking good maritime English has been a big requirement to get better employment opportunities both in home and abroad. This study is going to identify the mostly needed skills of maritime English to work in Bangladesh and be appointed through Bangladeshi shipping agencies. This research will also address the learning strategies that the present students use to achieve efficiency in maritime English.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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Professional English Skills in Maritime Jobs. (2021, Aug 09). Retrieved from

Professional English Skills in Maritime Jobs essay
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