It isn’t easy to be a shipowner in today’s market. Between lacklustre freight rates, the rising cost of regulatory compliance and Covid-19, the need to reduce expenses has never been greater.

The crusade to cut costs has prompted some operators to transfer their fleets to flag states that offer lower registration costs and annual fees than the big three: Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands.

This trend appears to be gaining the most traction in sectors that were particularly hard hit by the recent drop in oil prices and global pandemic, such as offshore, car-carriers and cruise, among others.

Eric R. Dawicki, the deputy maritime administrator for the Commonwealth of Dominica, notes that these same segments have seen a surge in layups as of late.

“In most cases, when tonnage is in layup, registration costs remain the same, which is frustrating for owners and operators that are struggling to make ends meet,” he adds. “As such, it comes as no surprise that the owners of these vessels are shopping around for more affordable alternatives.”

For its part the Commonwealth of Dominica International Ship Registry (Dominica Registry), which charges reduced rates when ships are in lay-up, is now offering two free years of registration to any self-propelled commercial vessel under 10 years of age.

E-learning for mariners

The flag state is overseen by the Northeast Maritime Institute (NMI) College of Maritime Science in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, which is the first private maritime college in the United States. NMI has trained over 65,000 mariners since its inception in 1981.

Today, in response to Covid-19, NMI now offers a comprehensive suite of Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) compliant courses and exams online, which enables cadets and professional seafarers to remain current despite social distancing requirements enacted by state and federal governments.

The Dominica Registry is overseen by the Northeast Maritime Institute (NMI) college of maritime science in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Photo: NMI

Using Northeast Maritime Online (NEMO°) , these courses are among the most thorough online maritime education and training programmes in the world. E-learning is nothing new, of course, but NMI has taken it to the next level with the recent launch of their new proprietary remote examination tool: HALO° Examination Monitoring System (HALO°).

The HALO° system provides performance assessments to ensure that proficiency skills are developed and maintained while engaged in full shipboard operations. With the use of this dynamic software, NMI's suite of courses, simulators and exams are approved by the US Coast Guard, which marks an industry first.

HALO°: A real-time online exam monitoring system

HALO° is a conglomeration of educational tools and software. Its mission is simple: the continuous improvement of quality and accessibility in the realm of maritime education and online training. HALO° ensures that all mariner’s learning needs are met and provides them with interactive tools that rival the hands-on experience of traditional in-person learning and training.

Rising demand for secure, remote examination methods has prompted a number of notable educational institutions to inquire about weaving the software into their own curricula.

HALO° offers instant, objective, and safeguarded technology-driven examination session analysis with an additional review from an expert team of human auditors. This eliminates human error, bias and many other issues surrounding identity and originality verification.

“The development of NEMO° and the HALO° Examination Monitoring System and simulators have taken maritime education and training to a new level with better information, resources, assessments and examinations that completely meet the intent of STCW, but also delivers with a cohesive humanitarian objective that ensures mariners and seafarers spend hard earned vacation time at home with their families instead of in 20th century classrooms that lose students within the first few hours of lectures,” Dawicki adds. “We need to honour the mariner!”