Not surprisingly accidents and incidents occur. On average, two ships are lost every week. It is well documented that over 80% of accidents are due to human error (IMO, 2012, Horner, 2014). Of this 80%, a remarkable 30% is caused by linguistic and/or communication mistakes (Ziarati, 2006, Trenkner, 2010).
In 1995, in an attempt to improve safety at sea, IMO officially adopted English as the working language on board and over the last few decades the specific competency of ‘Maritime English’ has developed to the point that IMO STCW now require seafarers to be able to communicate “effectively” in (Maritime) English. IMO provides guidance on the teaching of Maritime English through its Model Course 3.17. Recently, the International Maritime Lecturers Association (IMLA) completed a revision and update of the Model Course 3.17 to the latest industry and regulatory standards.
However, despite efforts to raise Maritime English standards, accidents, often caused solely or partly by communication failure, still take place, generating a threat to life, property and reputation. This could be prevented through global recognition of the need for a standard approach and assessment framework for Maritime English.
MET institutions have embraced the need for improvement in the teaching and assessment of Maritime English and, working with other parties, have put time and effort into developing tools and solutions to enhance both methods and results. EU Projects such as MarTEL, MarTEL Plus, UniMET and SeaTALK, the most recent enterprise, are evidence of their efforts.
The SeaTALK project (www.seatalk.pro) is the latest initiative of the Marifuture Platform (www.marifuture.org) and aims to establish a standard approach to teaching and learning Maritime English through the creation of standard curriculum content, learning outcomes, assessment methods, scoring and credit systems, all delivered through an innovative online platform. For ease of reference, both language criteria and assessment descriptors are linked to the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for languages). Moreover, SeaTALK is based on the EQF (European Qualification Framework) which allows for the mutual recognition of competences acquired through the establishment of a reference framework, uniform for all participating countries. SeaTALK also incorporates the ECVET