There is a number of maritime accidents partly caused
by repetitive communication failures which led to loss
of lives, goods and properties. Maritime
transportation is considered to be one of the most vital
and dangerous sectors of world economy; therefore,
the safety of seafarers, cargoes and vessels are of
utmost priority for the shipping industry. Seafarers
are expected to undergo the Maritime English
learning phase and for this purpose, English for
Specific Purposes (ESP) is a recognised approach in
meeting the needs of global industry whereas English
language is accepted as a common communication
language in the maritime industry [4].
To research the underlying reasons in the lack of
training of the maritime staff and present a viable
training solution, PraC-MARENG consortium
conducted a questionnaire meant to identify the
causes of common communication accidents on board
as well as to identify the best practices in learning
Maritime English used on board [3]. It contained a set
of questions addressed to the seafarers in various
ranks. The questionnaire focused on looking at the
view of the target groups on the deficiencies in
communicative skills of seafarers as well as to identify
problem areas in the maritime context. The report was
produced based on the outcome of the questionnaire
results, and it will be used as a base for the
development of the SMCP Based Maritime English
Learning Platform. This questionnaire was sent to all
related target groups and 120 responses were
received. In parallel, each partner reviewed the
method of delivery used by different education and
training systems in the Maritime English context and
Practical Communication Approach in Maritime English
U. Acar
& C. Varsami
Maritime Innovators, Istanbul, Turkey
Constanta Maritime University, Constanta, Romania
ABSTRACT: This paper is based on the PraC-MARENG project research and it aims to present the research
outputs during the project implementation. The paper focuses on the results of the questionnaire analysis
targeting to identify the causes of common communication problems on board in order to identify the best
practices in using Maritime English. It contains a set of questions addressed to the seafarers in various ranks. In
parallel, accidents caused by communication failures were selected and studied in each partner country (France,
Turkey, Romania, Lithuania, and Slovenia).
The partnership within PraC-MARENG will develop an online course for seafarers at various levels in order to
provide practical and communication based learning and assessment materials taking into account the real
conversations and accidents contributed by communication failures. The project will design a practical learning
and assessment tool that provides the user with a genuine certificate for the newly acquired skills. This will be
presented in a programme having a tailor made course. The learning will be organized on different phases
(elementary to intermediate) to train seafarers working on different levels of command.
the International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Tra
Volume 15
Number 3
September 2021
DOI: 10.12716/1001.15.03.13
looked into accidents and incidents related to
communication failures in their country.
The respondents generally speak their native
language or additional languages, usually from
neighbour countries, besides English, which is the
language of the sea. Although some countries would
like to use or promote their national language, which
is normal, PraC-MARENG project will promote and
emphasise the importance of English as the language
of the sea.
The countries of origin of the respondents were
Romania, Turkey, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, and
The Netherlands. The languages spoken are:
Romanian, Turkish, Lithuanian, Russian, Macedonian,
Polish, and Dutch.
Maritime English teaching and learning practices
differ from country to country when looking at the
investigations of PraC-MARENG consortium in
partner countries [3]. Maritime Education and
Training in the language competency of maritime
employees is likely to vary considerably from region
to region in Europe and worldwide; therefore, due to
this variation, careful consideration has to be given to
achieve the competencies stated in the STCW
Conventions and Codes [2].
The PraC-MARNEG questionnaire respondents
included maritime professionals with both
navigational and engineering skills as well as students
who have undergone some sea service.
Have you received Maritime English training? The
first question was clear enough and the results
pointed that 90 percent of participants did receive
Maritime English training. Teaching and learning
Maritime English are reported to be unregulated
across Europe and worldwide although recent
module courses and some initiatives have been
introduce in order to fill the gap. One example for this
is that it is quite unclear for some education centres
whether Maritime English is “English proficiency in
maritime context” or “Maritime proficiency in English
context” even though 90 percent of the respondents
stated that they received Maritime English training in
one way or another [5].
Figure 1. Maritime English Training
Which are the operations for which
communication becomes an issue? The respondents
believed that communication becomes an issue in the
following operations from the most to the least
significant ones: Ship-to-ship communications
(71.7%), Ship-to-shore communications (63.3%), Safety
and security (51.7%), Cargo operations (50%),
Anchoring/mooring operations (45.8%), Emergencies
on board (44.2%), Drills (43.3%), Watch keeping
(35.8%), Daily and social routines (34.2%), Briefings
(33.3%). The PraC-MARENG consortium will
consider the views of seafarers based on their real
experience and therefore it will give priority to the
above operations while matching them with their
relevance to their ranks and day-to-day operations.
Figure 2. Communication issues in Ship Operations (2020)
Which are the learning Materials used to study
Maritime English? The respondents were questioned
with regards to the learning materials they go through
to learn Maritime English, and they indicated that
they used Internet/media courses by 72.5%, Books by
69.2%, Mobile applications by 42.5% and Standard
Marine Communication Phrases by 35.8%. Although it
is a minor percent, respondents also used materials
from College courses, University/nautical college
lectures, during work interactions. This indicates that
traditional books still play a significant part in the
learning process. Integration of such books to
internet/media based courses would enable seafarers
to access them anywhere/anytime as internet based
applications are on the rise as learning materials.
Figure 3. Learning Materials
How was Maritime English Competence assessed?
The results indicate that the competence of seafarers
in Maritime English is assessed by classroom methods
developed by the teacher/institution (90.8%) whereas
some is assessed externally (32.5%) and through
international exams (38.3%). It is understood that
some of them had to pass classroom and external
evaluations at the same time, with an additional
international exam. This is due to the fact that there
are different international standards such as the IMO
Module Courses, STCW and SMCP phrases. However
every country has national rules and regulations to
observe regarding Maritime English learning,
teaching, assessment and certification [1].
Figure 4. Maritime English Assessment
There are three internationally accepted publications
where Maritime English standards are established:
The STCW Convention provides the essential contents
of Maritime English instruction for navigational and
marine engineering students along with the Standard
Maritime Communication Phrases (SMCP) and the
IMO Module Course 3.17. They are not fully intended
to present instructors/education centres with a
definite teaching package to be followed blindly. The
knowledge, skills and competence of the instructors
are the key components in the transfer of knowledge
and skills to those being trained through these
In the survey conducted by PraC-MARENG work
programme, participants by 95.8 percent wished to
have Maritime English training related to their rank
and specific operations. This is particularly important
in the eyes of PraC-MARENG partnership as some
existing attempts that are used in the delivery of
Maritime English courses to various ranks do not
reflect their real conversations on board and they are
not relevant in terms of content and levels. An attempt
to make the content relevant to each particular sea
staff serving at sea would motivate their learning
process hence improve their communication skills
that will ultimately help reduce repetitive
accidents/incidents that occur due to communication
failures. Communication plays a significant role in
safe operations hence an attempt to address the
existing gap will create safer, cleaner and more
profitable maritime activities.
Figure 5. Maritime English Training Approach
The accidents/incidents are reportedly occurring with
the contribution of communicative incapacity of
seafarers. The database research conducted within
PraC-MARENG partnership indicated that there is
still a number of accidents/incidents taking place due
to miscommunication in partner countries hence
potentially in Europe and other parts of the world that
are connected by seas. These reports were filtered and
studied in depth to be transformed into real time
scenarios that the learners can study using the online
Here are some examples studied and each was
contributed by poor communication practices either
by the ship’s crew, pilot or external parties.
Table 1. Accidents caused by poor communication
Accident name Reason for the Accident
Sarah F + Poor Communication on VHF between
Rusen Mete ships led to collision between a vessel at
anchor and a vessel passing by.
Genk R Poor English language command between
vessels led to injuries of crew members
during cargo operation.
Matilde A + Poor communication practices between
Varkan Akdeniz Pilots led to collision while navigating off
the port.
MOMO vs Lack of communication and
SNSM understanding between Helicopter and
Ship during a man overboard operation.
Ocean Crown No effective communication between the
Master and the Port Authority led to ship
entering to shallow waters.
Slovenia Lack of good communication between the
bridge and the crew on mooring positions
led to injuries.
M/V Vitaspirit Poor communication between crew
leading to a collision and major damage to
ship structure.
The results of the survey were limited to partner
countries therefore they reflect the data collected
accordingly. Partners decided to keep the survey
active to collect further data from partner countries
and other parts of the world.
It has to be also noted that the majority of
respondents are from the deck department therefore
conclusions and analysis are made accordingly. It is
particularly important that some responses such as
the ones related to the areas that they are struggling
with in communicating or failing to do so were
considered as priorities.
Almost all of the respondents benefited from
Maritime English training and those who haven’t are
potentially coming from old schools or else. This will
also be investigated further while building the blocks
of the proposed course.
Participants by 95.8 percent wished to have
Maritime English training related to their duties and
respective operations. This is particularly important in
the eyes of PraC-MARENG partnership as some
existing content that is used in the delivery of
Maritime English courses to various ranks do not fully
reflect their real time conversations on board. An
attempt to make the content relevant to each
particular position serving at sea would motivate their
learning process hence improve their communication
skills that will ultimately help reduce repetitive
accidents /incidents that occur due to communication
failures. Communication plays a significant role in
safe operations hence an attempt to address the
existing gap will create safer, cleaner and more
profitable seas.
The on-field reality proves the undeniable
knowhow of Seaspeak and standard marine
communication phrases; yet the lack of practical
knowledge thereof has conspicuous consequences on
the part of seafaring personnel involved in
communication onboard. Thus, the questionnaire
analysis brought out this reality and set out a needs-
tailored approach to the problem of Maritime English.
The four skills involved in learning a foreign language
have to be addressed when teaching English for
Special Purposes as in the case of Maritime English.
The inclusion of real-life scenarios in the classroom or
online is of the utmost importance as it makes the
vital connection between theory and practice and
instils a sense of familiarity on the part of the student.
It is undeniable that learning words and phrases
by rote without practicing them in context leads to a
mechanical memorization of the maritime lexis.
Therefore, the questionnaire analysis laid emphasis on
this aspect as well as on the need for availability of
resources (online or traditional learning resources).
For instance, the development of a platform accessible
on a mobile app (focused on listening and
pronunciation) which does not require internet
connection would definitely help the process.
It should be noted, as put forward by the
questionnaire analysis, that teaching and learning
Maritime English has an irregular occurrence and
follows an irregular pattern. As a result, occurrences
where poor or misunderstood statements trigger
accidents or incidents on board are a natural
consequence and should definitely be amended. The
alternative solutions include the setup of an online
platform with topics related to the maritime
environment with real-life audio sequences and
The research undergone so far within PraC-
MARENG partnership demonstrated that there is a
need for improvement of the learning database for
people working in the maritime industry so that the
possibility of accidents/incidents occurrence might
diminish considerably or at least be subdued.
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