Training Filipino seafarers for global shipping community

The Philippines and Norway enjoy a strong maritime connection over the years since diplomatic relation began in 1948, especially with collaborations in the areas of maritime training. In an interview with Maritime Fairtrade, Captain Jo Even Tomren, managing director of the Norwegian Training Center (NTC), gave an update of the latest happenings in the maritime training industry.

Captain Jo Even Tomren, managing director of the Norwegian Training Center.

In 1990, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association (NSA) established NTC, the first maritime training center in the world certified by DNV, under the Norwegian Maritime Foundation of the Philippines, Inc (NMFPI). Since then, NTC has trained around 200,000 Filipino and foreign seafarers. 

Captain Tomren said: “We believe in our business model, which is ensuring high end competence, and we have good working relationships with the other training centers in the APAC region. We are complementing each other, and as a business, we can offer a variety of services to our clients and seafarers. 

“Our close relationship with the Norwegian Maritime Authority and the Philippines Maritime Authority allows and helps us to effectively certify the seafarers and ensure that they are provided the needed competence to do their jobs onboard the worldwide fleet.” 

NTC has invested in enhancing the use of technology in shipping and ship management, bringing expertise from Europe to the Philippines. 

In November 2023, NTC, in partnership with a Norwegian virtual reality (VR) software development company, Morild Interaktiv, launched the first VR bridge simulator in the country, to cut the cost of training. Trainees undergo realistic exercises varying from the easiest to the most challenging conditions and scenarios, as if they are aboard shipping vessels. NTC is the exclusive partner and distributor in the Asia-Pacific region.

Norwegian Training Center.

Captain Tomren said: “NTC has been one of the players in leading the maritime training industry in the Philippines – through excellence and continuous innovation. Our mission is to deliver courses that will supply the learner with the requirements of their roles while utilizing the latest technologies such as our VR and in-house produced computer-based modules. 

“We focus not just on compliance, but we also incorporate a comprehensive approach in our learning methodologies to ensure that our trainees are competent in their respective specializations. In everything we do, we make sure awareness and leadership is applied in the training.” 

NTC has also partnered with maritime cybersecurity company NORMA Cyber.

“Together, we have developed programs, both for seafarers and our cadet program. Our maritime cybersecurity program covers the essential aspects of cybersecurity including security strategies and safe-keeping data. Through the NTC E-Learning Interface or NELi, the course can be taken by all personnel in the maritime industry, onboard or ashore.”

Virtual simulation facility.

Through the NSA Cadet Program, Filipinos can apply for scholarships to study for the Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Transportation or Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering. According to Captain Tomren, around 6,000 graduates, both male and female, have a job on one of the vessels of the association’s members.

“We have also pioneered the Electro-Technical Officer (ETO) cadet program here in the Philippines for licensed electrical engineers (or industrial engineers who specialized in electronics). While this is offered to those with work experience, it also provides aspiring Filipinos the opportunity to pursue an onboard career. 

“For the Norwegian Shipowners Association (NSA) cadet program we have implemented at our affiliated schools, we are using our instructors, expertise and enhancement tools to add on to the schools’ curriculum. We are offering our NTC-developed curriculum, which is 100 percent compliance to the STCW, for free to anyone who wants it, including the government. We are constantly trying to contribute and use our experience and expertise into the various arenas where we are invited.”

According to Captain Tomren, all NTC’s instructors are specialists in their subject areas and have worked in the maritime industry before, either active or former management-level officers with certifications from the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The class size is limited so that each student can fully maximize the learning experience.

“From a technical and logistic viewpoint, we have two approaches. If the program itself looks for a partner, we will first visit the school, and discuss interest, once there is interest established, the program then does due diligence, audit, recommends to the ATEP Steering Committee and the NMFPI Board, and then finalizes approval of the school.” 

(ATEP: Association of Shipowners’ Training and Education Project, NMFPI Board: Norwegian Maritime Foundation of the Philippines, Inc Board)

“If the school wants to partner with the program, they will have to send in an intent of interest letter, the program visits and observes the premises, again does due diligence, audit, recommend to the ATEP Steering Committee and the NMFPI Board, and then finalize approval. These partnerships are essential for us to provide the general courses necessary for the students to undergo their degree program.”


Promoting green shipping

“Green shipping, decarbonization and environmental initiatives have been on our agenda for many years already and we will continue to drive this forward to be able to reach our climate goals,” added Captain Tomren.

NTC is collaborating with Fred Olsen Ocean – Offshore Wind, for students to train at the Brave Tern, a four-legged jack-up vessel, and to train at advanced simulation facilities to experience realistic simulations of harsh wind farm environments and offshore crane operations during wind turbine construction. 

NTC and World Wildlife Fund-Philippines also rolled out Project SEA: Sustainability and Environmental Awareness to NSA cadets and NTC employees.

“Project SEA is a step that our foundation took to do our part for the environment. NTC has been striving to create more ways on how we can pave the way and start caring for Mother Earth. The program aims to improve conservation and enhancement by striving to remove pollutants and waste from waterways, alter habits that deplete the ecosystem, and raise awareness about how serious the problem of marine pollution is.” 

Last September, in Manila, the Norwegian Embassy, British Embassy, DNV and Global Wind Energy Council organized a two-day offshore wind technical workshop on port development, skills and training, grid transmission, and emergency preparedness. Through this workshop and other programs, the Norwegian government is supporting the Philippine government in efforts in decarbonization. 

Virtual simulation facility.

Women in seafaring 

The seafaring industry used to be male-dominated but times have changed as women have now become more interested in working in the industry. Captain Tomren said the NSA cadet program actively recruits female cadets. 

“NTC also continues to promote gender diversity and inclusivity through its annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Every year, we have aspired to highlight both the achievements and challenges of women onshore and offshore.”

In 2023, NTC submitted a policy document to the Women and Gender Institute of Miriam College, highlighting the issues faced by women seafarers, including reproductive health, work arrangements and socialization, and access to facilities, provision and supply. 

Looking ahead, NTC plans to roll out courses on gender mainstreaming, expand cybersecurity and decarbonization courses, and upgrade the NTC E-Learning Interface (NELI) library.

“We are always working on the wellbeing of the seafarers, so resilience and mental health focus will also come with the new training program.”

All photos credit: Norwegian Training Center

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