Christophe Collard - Speaker

In recent years, Maritime English lecturers at Antwerp Maritime Academy have witnessed the enrollment of students with mild to severe stuttering problems. Whilst posing certain pedagogical challenges in the classroom, this phenomenon has especially led to an ongoing discussion about matters of certification as well as enrollment prerequisites – two aspects themselves tributary to the overarching question of future employability. Aside from posing a potential threat to our own academic credibility – especially with Antwerp-based industry partners – the issue of stuttering seafarers in the current situation creates a conundrum calling for considerable expert reflection. Stuttering, as noted, has proven problematical in terms of certain STCW-related subjects, including Maritime English and GMDSS. Antwerp Maritime Academy moreover does not organize intake exams, nor does it specifically assess the candidate’s communication skills prior to enrollment.

Stuttering in the professional literature is defined as “a fluency disorder whereby a speaker’s forward flow of speech is impeded.” For in stuttering “the speaker knows what he or she wishes to say, has the message formulated, but has difficulty getting the speech sounds out to produce the message in a fluent manner [whereby] the speech sounds are repeated, prolonged and/or blocked so that the speaker has difficulty moving forward to the next sound” (K. Scaler Scott, 2013). Needless to specify, hence, that the condition poses substantial challenges; both to the individual candidate, as to their future employer – and especially so in the shipping industry, where effective communication is key to safety and, indeed, certification.

Further problematized by the study of Anderson et al. (2003) on the self-regulatory skills of stuttering students, which demonstrated their (far) lower adaptability to change and concomitant increased likelihood of more severe stuttering in unpredictable or novel situations, the notion of adaptability arguably warrants particular methodological focus – both from the angle of learners and lecturers alike. Especially so, since the STCW Code [Section A-I/9] stipulates that seafarers should: […] “2. Demonstrate adequate hearing and speech to communicate effectively and detect any audible alarms; 3. Have no medical condition, disorder, or impairment that will prevent the effective and safe conduct of their routine and emergency routines on board during the validity period of the medical certificate.”

Under current local institutional regulations, however, said medical certificate does not cover effective oral communication, while the GMDSS certificate can apparently be obtained without time constraints being systematically applied, thus creating an entirely artificial and professionally non-representative situation. But one which, sadly, can generate frustrating situations for all concerned: the student may harbor unrealistic expectations, while the Maritime English lecturers will likely bar them from obtaining the BA in Nautical Sciences despite the student obtaining the GMDSS STCW certificate.

This paper, accordingly, proposes a conceptual introduction to the condition of stuttering, followed by a detailed assessment of our local situation at Antwerp Maritime Academy, before finally presenting to the IMEC gathering of maritime communication experts a set of discussion points centered round the notion of adaptability – and this in the ultimate hope of clarifying our academic position on the matter, streamlining the institutional and national procedures on the matter, as well as eventually formulating international industry recommendations.
23 Oct 2018

Event (Conference)

TitleInternational Maritime English Conference
Abbrev. TitleIMEC
Web address (URL)
LocationMaritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific

ID: 40010918