The Test that sets the first standards

MarTEL is the test that is going to set the first international standards for Maritime English. Funded by the European Union through its Leonardo da Vinci programme of Life Long Learning; MarTEL has been designed to test seafarers’ maritime English through a series of online tests designed to cater for seafarers of different classes and ranks within your company.

The inadequacy of Maritime English Language standards has been a major contributory factor in causes of accidents, some involving loss of life, large numbers of injuries and extensive financial loss for too long. More than 80% of accidents at sea are caused by human error, for the majority of which poor language skills feature as the main cause according to recent research (see research section).

MarTEL has developed a series of Maritime English language standards which incorporates the IMO's SMCP, at three different levels: Foundation Level, Officer Level and Senior Officer Level.

  • The Foundation standard will include tests at three levels of proficiency: Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced. All levels will include active skills, such as Speaking, Comprehension and Writing. The content will be based on active learning and on maritime terminology and usage with less emphasis on grammar.
  • The Officer standard will be based on TOEFL 550 (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS 6.0 standards but content will be primarily based on Navigation English and Marine Engineering English. These tests will focus on all skills, with less emphasis on grammar.
  • The Senior Officer’s standard will be equivalent to TOEFL 600 or IELTS 6.6. For the senior officers in charge of vessels over 3000 GRT, the standard will include a section on language requirements for these vessels. All standards for Officer and Senior Officer Levels will have different weights on different skills and different proficiency requirements at different ranks and duties. For example, a Chief Engineer should be competent on comprehension (especially reading) and writing but a more moderate level of speaking may be tolerated. These standards will be examined through a series of online maritime English tests. The tests will award seafarers with vocational qualifications in Maritime English according to the standard that they are capable of. It is expected that these qualifications will be recognised across Europe and later across the globe.

The main intangible outcome is that, the standards and their associated study units will provide an opportunity for many companies, particularly smaller ones to become involved, taking advantage of learning materials and the intended e-learning and e-assessment facilities for self-learning and self-assessment. Impact is expected to be substantial as the project responds to a European and international acknowledgment of the problem which this project intends to address at source and through industrial lifelong learning. There are many organisations including awarding, accrediting and licensing bodies that are involved in the project.

MarTEL is set to launch at the start of the New Year in MET centres across Europe. It is hoped that the new standards will not only improve communication at sea but also help save lives and prevent material and financial loss for your company and the industry as a whole.

Preparing for real life situations

MarTEL tests maritime English as it is used in real life situations in the maritime industry. Unlike other tests, it provides a realistic and reliable score of a candidate’s maritime English ability across all five language skills – listening, reading, writing, speaking and grammar/SMCP. As well as testing candidates integrated skills and pronunciation through a variety of questions.

MarTEL tests the use of Maritime English to a standard that will prepare test takers for life at sea working within your maritime company. You can expect that a MarTEL qualification is a certificate of real capability in Maritime English.

The MarTEL tests include voices from people with different accents and varying pronunciations of the English language in order to reflect the real life situations and voices that test takers will come across during their career. This is designed to combat the sorts of problems that led to the Prestige disaster in 2002 highlighted and similar cases in 2007 IMEC event. (see research Section for more information).

Which Phase fits your purpose?

The aim of the MarTEL test is to tell you if a test taker’s English language proficiency fits the requirements for the type, class and rank your company requires. These tests will enable quicker processing of applications for vacancies at your company and will ensure that your cadets are given the maximum opportunity to learn their profession rather than struggle with the English language which is often the case.

MarTEL is available in three phases:

  • Phase 1, which is designed for entry on to merchant navy cadet officer programmes for both deck and marine engineering cadet officers. This test is also for non officers working within your company.
  • Phase 2, which is split into two parts: Part 1 tests the level of competency for senior deck officers of watch. Part 2 tests the level of competency for marine engineering officers.
  • Phase 3, which is also in two parts: Part 1 tests the level of competency for senior deck officers (Navigators). Part 2 tests the level of competency for senior marine engineering officers.

These phases mean that you can recruit applicants who have taken a test that is directly relevant to the English-language purposes required for your post.

Accessibility for test takers

MarTEL is set to launch on to the European market at the start of the New Year (2010). As a European Union funded project it already has many partners and institutions on board to incorporate the tests into their candidate selection process.

See the MarTEL Test Centre Search on our homepage to find out where your nearest centre is.

Security procedures for tests and results

The security of material and test results is paramount to MarTEL.

Numerous procedures are in place to safeguard the test and test results.

  1. All MarTEL centres follow a detailed set code of practice for delivering the test to candidates
  2. Assessed work is internally and externally verified by an external assessment body
  3. Assessors (Markers/Graders) and internal verifiers are certified and follow specific assessment and verification standards
  4. MarTEL scores are based upon the (CEFR) Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
  5. Each test has been designed by a consortium of European experts in the teaching of Maritime English and of the professions within the Merchant Navy to ensure that the maritime English needs of the industry are met and tested accordingly

Ensuring we meet the highest standards

As it stands there is currently no standardised maritime English test. Therefore this means that there is no qualification to show that a seafarer is competent enough in the language of the sea; maritime English. It has been proven through many research studies that this is one of the main reasons for the increasing number of accidents that are occurring at sea. Research has shown that many of these accidents could have been avoided if the seafarers’ understanding of maritime English had been of an adequate standard. Many seafarers in the merchant navy do not have English as their first language and many have little understanding of the language at all. Sadly, the IMO and its international training standard (STCW) does not impose or require competence in the English Language, the language of formal communication at sea and in ports. MarTEL is at the forefront of all contemporary maritime English research and has been developed by many senior officers and maritime language experts in order to make sure the tests meet the requirements of the maritime industry and cover the current deficiencies identified by research studies (see research section).

Pronunciation has also been proven to be one of the biggest obstacles (Nautilus Telegraph, Dec 2007) for sailors in the maritime industry. MarTEL has taken this on board and incorporated questions that test the correct pronunciation of words in the speaking sections. There is advice, exercises and helpful references to help test takers with these questions in the study guidelines and study units that accompany the tests.

As it stands all of the tests for each phase have been evaluated and are currently about to undergo a series of pilot tests in MET institutions across Europe to ensure that they are of the highest quality and accuracy that they can be. The project is on schedule to be implemented in test centres Europe-wide early in the New Year (2010).

MarTEL is working alongside many awarding and accrediting bodies (including EDEXCEL) as well as many other experts in the maritime English language field to ensure the highest standards for the tests. The tests have also taken onboard feedback from experienced seafarers about what skills are needed most at sea in real life situations by each type, class and rank of seafarer.

All of the aforementioned, means that your company can rely on a MarTEL Test to be a suitable vocational qualification of Maritime English language ability.

MarTEL – the benefits

There are many benefits of using Europe’s first standardised international Maritime English language tests. These include:

  1. Improving the level of safety at sea and ultimately preserving lives
  2. Reducing material loss and financial costs incurred through accidents caused by a lack of knowledge of Maritime English and consequently reducing the cost of shipping insurance
  3. By reducing the number of accidents at sea; MarTEL will also be helping to save the environment from the harmful and toxic cargo that is often spilt which has been the case in several accidents
  4. Reducing administration costs and time
  5. Being able to choose candidates who have the standard of Maritime English required for your job vacancy.

Join the MarTEL team today.

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