Open-day lecture at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology

Last weekend we went back to the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (Etchujima Campus). This time we attended an open-day course on English that officers are expected to be able to use. On the following day, we then had the honor of sailing on the university’s training ship Shioji-maru.

We arrived at the campus at around a quarter past nine. After our lecturer introduced himself, we split into groups to introduce ourselves to one-another. It was nice to see a handful of senior high school students in the class, too. Some were in their final year and were attending because they were considering entering the university. While Japan owns a large number of ships trading in the world, there are very few Japanese national crew members onboard as the majority of seafarers are from other countries. This is also why English ability is essential.

Dr. Takagi told us the importance of using clear and simple English. Using unfamiliar phrases or idioms may only cause confusion. At sea a hazard can blow up in no time at all, thus clear, unambiguous language is crucial. The world of shipping uses fixed universal terminology. Although, having a flexible approach to English is important. If an emergency occurs on your ship, you need to be able to relay this to your counterpart effectively using all means possible to get your message understood.

He went on to tell us that shipping English consists of mainly nouns and short sentences. It is worth noting here that while shipping English terms may appear identical to daily English terms the terms used in shipping tend to be narrower in meaning. For example, the verb to pay means to send out rope or an anchor. Whereas in daily English this term has wider application, for example, to pay a bill, to pay respect etc.

Grammar is the same, but as mentioned above, it is to be kept short and concise.

Being accustomed to a number of different ways that words are pronounced is important, as people from a number of different countries, mainly in Asia, work in the shipping industry.

The ability to use time tense in English is especially important. A mix up in using time tense correctly could cause an accident.

While perfect English may not be required, the ability to communicate so as to maintain a good relationship with one’s counterpart is important.

After lunch, we took a tour of the university’s museum under the guidance of former pilot Kenzo Tateishi. We learned how Meiji-maru started out as a two-mast schooner that was then modified with the progress of time. With the advent of steam, she had a large paddle engine assembled in the middle of her hull. This was then later removed and another mast was added for training purposes, so that trainees could practice climbing the mast and working on the yard arms. Another interesting point to mention is that the sea territory of Japan is one third larger thanks to Meiji-maru being fast enough to claim the Ogasawara islands. This area of sea is rich in minerals and ores. The Meiji-maru played an important role in a part of Japan’s history.

On Sunday morning, we boarded the university’s training ship Shioji-maru. The plan was to sail from the port of Tokyo to the port of Yokohama and then back again. The weather was beautiful and we also had the chance to see a VLCC oil tanker undergoing bunkering. These colossal very large crude carriers are 333 meters in length (the height of Tokyo Tower).  

At the end of the short program we all received completion certificates. We are looking forward to future classes and events that will be held at the university.