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MCA to continue online exams

Maritime and Coastguard Agency online exams to continue following a successful Officer of the Watch pilot project…

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has announced a split two-part pilot scheme Officer of the Watch (OOW) deck unlimited oral examination, to be introduced in Spring 2023.  The MCA has decided to retain the format of online-based oral examinations following a successful pilot project during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the MCA, the new pilot scheme should increase the efficiency of this examination system and take advantage of the increase in digital communications. This scheme is also designed to have a positive impact on the oral examination backlog as it will test that candidates have a base level of knowledge to move to the face-to-face examination.

It will be a fully monitored examination taken under examination conditions, the monitoring includes electronic photographic ID checking and monitoring throughout the examination using the webcam of the candidate's device.

During the part A examination, the candidate will be required to correctly answer several questions within a set period and must successfully pass part A before they can progress and book part B online face-to-face oral examination.

Questions will be drawn from across the OOW deck unlimited oral examination syllabus and are designed to give both the candidate and the examiner confidence that the candidate has the skills and knowledge to progress and attempt part B of the examination.

The MCA will send a link for the new process to all new applicants for the Officer of the Watch Part A exam at the end of next month. The pilot scheme will be continued and reviewed, and unless issues are identified, the pilot will continue indefinitely and become standard practice.

Maritime Minister Baroness Vere comments: “We’re committed to boosting skills and training opportunities for seafarers, ensuring those from a range of backgrounds and walks of life can embark on a rewarding career in our maritime sector.

“This new pilot scheme will help to take full advantage of online technology, providing a more efficient service whilst ensuring the highest standards continue to be met.”

Katy Ware, Director of UK Maritime Services adds: “We were determined to make sure that the needs of seafarers remained at the forefront of what we do.

“The pandemic caused a lot of challenges for us all and this pilot scheme to help seafarers continue their exams proved a real lifeline. We have tested it to make sure it is secure and safe and after a review, it makes sense to move all parts of the Officer of the Watch exam to an online system of delivery. If this trial is successful, we will look to extend it to other exams.”

A link for the new process will be sent out to all new applicants for the Officer of the Watch Part A exam will be sent out at the end of next month. For more information and guidance visit the MCA website. 

The MCA has included a helpful Q&A for further guidance: 

How we can ensure candidates won’t be able to cheat in the online aspect of the exam (e.g. have notes on the wall behind the webcam)?

At the introduction and ID check section of the examination, the candidate has to take a 20-second video with their device webcam in which they video all walls of the room and the desk they are sitting at. This is part of the monitoring process and will be available for review. Still photographs are taken at 10-second intervals which can be reviewed on a malpractice flag - or randomly. The system monitoring looks for things out of the ordinary - other faces in the room, for example, candidate leaving their seat etc

What other benefits would this bring for the MCA and the candidate (e.g. does it save money, how much staffing resources)?

Making the first part of the OOW (deck unlimited) exam a monitored exam frees up resources from two perspectives. Firstly, it means there doesn’t have to be an MCA surveyor invigilating the exam, allowing them to do other work. Secondly, if the candidate doesn’t get through the first part of the exam, it means they cannot move on to the second part which does require resources.

This will have a positive impact on the oral examination backlog as it will test that candidates have a base level of knowledge to move to the face-to-face examination. Under the previous system, some candidates took multiple attempts to pass the examination which contributed to the backlog.

How long will the pilot go on for and will it be applied to all candidates from spring 2023?

The pilot scheme for the Officer of the Watch (OOW) (deck unlimited) will be continued and reviewed. Unless issues are identified the pilot will continue indefinitely and become standard practice.

Did we do this during the pandemic or did we pause tests altogether?

At the start of the pandemic oral examinations for all grades of the certificate were held face-to-face in the marine offices. There was no Part A and Part B for any of them. These had to e paused during the pandemic. This – inevitably – led to a backlog which the MCA has been looking to try to resolve. Oral exams in front of examiners were moved online.

Profile links

MCA - Maritime and Coastguard Agency / Ensign

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