How MarTEL started

The beginning

There are currently no international or European standards for Maritime English. At IMO’s MSC 82 in 2006 it was noted that the current English language standards and the Maritime English course models, such as the IMO’s SMCP, are no longer adequate. According to recent IMO statistics 80% of accidents at sea are caused by human error, nearly half of which are attributed to communications failures among the crew. Many research studies such as Loginovsky (2002) Threnkner (?) Pritchard (?) Cole (?) arguing the case for improving standards of Maritime English and Ziarati (2006, 2007) who promoted the idea of establishing a set of standard in 2007.

The Centre For Factories of the Future (C4FF) formed a Europe-wide partnership and developed a Leonardo project to prepare a set of standards for Maritime English, called MarTEL. There are nine active partners and many silent partners supporting the MarTEL project. These partners range from MET institutions and universities to Maritime companies and accrediting and awarding bodies such as Edexcel.

According to Professor Ziarati; MarTEL is a test of Maritime English and not a test of Maritime knowledge as has been the teaching practice in many Maritime Institutions. It is developed based on lessons learnt from communication failure which led to many accidents and incidents in the past. He is of the view that one accident is too many and one life too precious to be lost. Competence in Maritime English not only helps to avoid accidents but creates a more harmonious atmosphere on board vessels and in ports.

Test format

MarTEL tests are available at three phases. These phases are designed to test candidate’s competency in Maritime English for three different stages in their career. They aim to cover all classes of seafarer.

  • Phase 1: Is designed for entry on to merchant navy cadet officer programmes for both deck and engineering cadet officers.
  • Phase 2: Is split into two parts. One test is for Deck Officers and the other is for Marine Engineers. This phase is designed for candidates at Officer Level.
  • Phase 3: Is also divided into two parts. One test is for Senior Deck Officers and the other for Chief Engineers. This phase is designed for candidates at Senior Officer Level.

All phases test the five key language learning skills: Reading, writing, listening, speaking and grammar/SMCP. What is more, the tests include questions which integrate skills in order to familiarise test takers with situations similar to those found in real life..

Continuing development

In keeping with this history of innovation, the MarTEL partners are committed to the development of the standards. The current standards (tests, guidelines and study units) are expected to undergo further developments. Several new tests for each phase are being developed and are expected to be the backbone of future tests. The initial tests and these new ones are all as a result of research and recent evaluations. The research activities are expected to continue and underpin future developments.

The initial development of the test was primarily based on existing English Language text books written for specific or different levels of language developments. In parallel the English content of IMO course models and programmes offered in related subjects (mainly Nautical Science and Marine Engineering) were carefully studied. These together with guidelines for/of IMO ancillary and other model courses such as 3.14 and PHASES included in the IMO SMCP (International Maritime Organisation’s Standard Maritime Communication Phrases, 2001) were carefully examined for application in MarTEL standards at appropriate levels. What makes MarTEL unique is that its content is based on communication failures which led to accidents and incidents in the past.

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