Last Updated on September 29, 2023
As a global phenomenon, the shipping trade connects distant locations and people who speak different languages and belong to various nationalities from different corners of the globe.
English has been the lingua franca used for the intercultural community for a long time. But as far as the maritime industry is concerned, English takes on new standards and characteristics that allow seafarers to render more effective communication among their peers.
This article delves into the role of English communication in global maritime operations.
Maritime English – What is It?
Maritime English refers to a language minimum for all seafarers. This is used for everyday, social, and technical matters. Maritime English involves a specialized vocabulary and standardized structures that guarantee efficiency in day-to-day tasks and responsibilities and suitable emergency responses.
This is common in onboard, ship-to-shore, and ship-to-ship communication. Maritime English’s primary goal is to ensure that ships will safely function with improved external and internal communication.
It is common for crew members to have different and varied skill levels in the English language. To ensure that communication is clear, the STCW or International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers mandates all seafarers to learn and be familiar with the SMCP or Standard Marine Communication Phrases.
Maritime English is rich in nuances that can convey different messages once mastered. This eliminates ambiguity and allows seafarers to communicate and act immediately during emergencies.
Why Learn and Master Maritime English?
Even if you feel confident with your English speaking skills, it doesn’t automatically mean you are already competent in Maritime English. Several unique features differentiate standard English from English used in maritime communication. You can rebuild your English language knowledge and skills to effectively communicate with other marine industry professionals through learning and mastering Maritime English.
Maritime English is considered a professional tool that includes the terms for both the exterior and interior parts of ships, their systems, maintenance, and navigation vocabulary. This form of English also facilitates administration, management, and trade.
For instance, maritime English can help convey messages to foreign harbors or ships. Maritime English can also be helpful to everyone in the seaborne business, including seafarers, ship owners, administrators, and even lawyers.
This English form is also a critical emotional and social component that allows coworkers to get along better and enhances their quality of life while on board. This also encourages effective communication between seafarers and other maritime industry professionals. Maritime English eliminates misunderstandings, prevents accidents, and ensures safety and security.
Importance of Maritime English for Seafarers
As today’s shipping industry improves and progresses by the day, it has become increasingly critical for seafarers to work on their proficiency in Maritime English.
If your most prominent dream is to go on board a ship or merchant vessel and study Maritime English for this reason, it is highly recommended to do your homework. It’s because in-depth Maritime English knowledge is essential for effective communication in a merchant’s vessel.
The very life of the people and the vessel’s integrity depends a lot on the communication skills of those onboard. The following are some of the significant points highlighting Maritime English and its importance in the profession of a seafarer.
Maritime English is essential in preparation for emergencies
Whether you like it or not, emergencies can sometimes happen on vessels. A man could be overboard, or a fire might occur. In such cases, seafarers are expected to respond to the situation accordingly.
While you will be taught the necessary steps for dealing with these emergencies on board, these are often given in Maritime English.
Thus, a lack of proficiency in Maritime English may prevent you from responding to emergencies effectively. This can result in more mishaps, accidents, and even tragedies and fatalities.
The crew members don’t belong to the same nationality
Today’s shipping industry is no longer bound to just one region or country. Now more than ever, the sector has gone international. Thus, it is expected that people who belong to different nationalities will be working in one vessel.
With English being a universal language, this is the only language that will allow seafarers to communicate with each other effectively. This is why learning Maritime English and its proper use is critical, particularly for younger apprentices.
Bad communication is the cause of many maritime accidents
So, as you know, most maritime accidents result from human error and mistakes. One can associate most of these marine incidents with lousy communication. Miscommunication will most likely occur if seafarers don’t use standard Maritime English while onboard a vessel.
Miscommunication can also cost the lives of other seafarers and might even endanger the vessel’s integrity. Thus, it is becoming even more critical to use standard Maritime English, even more so for those in operational situations.
Maritime English is considered a standard
During the early days of the shipping industry, all countries had specific communication languages that they considered a standard. With the growth of the shipping industry and one ship started to travel to different parts of the world, various hurdles and challenges occurred due to the language barrier.
This led to the introduction of Maritime English, which was soon adopted as the standard language for seafarers across the globe. There was a drastic reduction in operational mishaps, hurdles, and accidents thanks to Maritime English.
Maritime English Examples
Certain Maritime English conventions and rules make communication more matter-of-fact and straightforward. For instance, positions will become clearer since all directions have specific names. The right side is called the starboard, while the left is the port. Moving forward means making headway, while sternway refers to the backward movement.
The front of the ship is the bow or fore, with the midship following it. The propeller area or the back of the ship is the aft or stern. The captain is in charge of controlling the ship from his bridge. Every window and door in a ship is an access hole. Even the ship itself takes on a feminine noun in Maritime English as this is referred to as she. These are just some maritime vocabulary examples that seafarers must know.
Message markers are also common in Maritime English. These help direct people’s attention and let them know a statement’s purpose. Could I, should I, may I, and other ways of asking questions are considered unnecessary. Seafarers use QUESTION instead as the message marker, immediately stating the communication’s purpose. The following is a good example:
QUESTION. Do you need help?
ANSWER is another market that belongs to the same group.
ANSWER. I need help.
Statements that use the WARNING marker need attention immediately, while the marker INTENTION informs others of the actions of the crew members. Meanwhile, the markers ADVICE, INFORMATION, INSTRUCTION, and REQUEST also serve as sentence prefixes, communicating their purpose.
These markers are valuable during emergencies or accidents when more emotional sentences may distort the message and its meaning or cause uncalled-for pressure.
Seafarers can also check and verify their Maritime English knowledge. They can also get a certification if they take the MarTEI or Maritime Tests of English Language. After some time, this knowledge of Maritime English can boost the potential in their career with better mobility and networking opportunities.
All in all, the role of English communication in global maritime operations can never be overstated. It allows efficacious communication while onboard a vessel.