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Post Nautical Schools in Italy, Then and Now
Created by John Eipper on 08/19/21 7:06 AM

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Nautical Schools in Italy, Then and Now (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy, 08/19/21 7:06 am)

John E asked me to further discuss Italy's Nautical Schools, and the reasons I claimed they are presently in a mess.

It used to be that the skill to become a ship captain was learned on board. Maybe the captain would take his son with him and teach him to become a captain too--the hard way.

The first official Nautical Schools were in Naples in 1623, then Marseille and Le Havre 1728, Hamburg 1749, Trieste 1754. and also England. After Naples the Nautical Schools spread all over Italy: The Naples school was also the first to divide courses into navigation on the high seas, coastal trade, fishing, and ship construction. The Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1748 proclaimed a modern Codex of Navigation.

Of course, the great Italian Maritime Republics: Genoa, Pisa, Amalfi, Ragusa (now Dubrovnik), and Venice had already their Codex and Navigation books, for example the Genoese Liber Gazarie of 1341.

The Liber Gazarie takes its name from the Gazaria, the Genoese colony on Crimea, prior to the invasion by the Tatars. The Genoese remained in Crimea from 1266 till 1475.  This counters the thesis of Erdogan and scholar Sezai Ozcelik that the Tatars are the autochthonous people of Crimea.

During the 1920s and '30s, due to its great importance for the country, the nautical school was under the supervision of the Ministry of the Seas.  Finally, it was placed under the Ministry of Public Instruction.

Italy at present has 38 state Nautical Schools plus some private institutions, divided into four main areas--Deck, Engine, Construction, and Logistics.  Thirty-seven subjects are taught but only one foreign language, English (in my time we also studied French; one foreign language is not enough).

To become an Officer in charge or Master required two very rigorous examinations administered by the Coast Guard.

When I finished the Nautical School in 1954 I had an examination in 18 different subjects, now reduced to four of which only two are written and oral. This year due to Covid-19 the exam was only one conversation between the candidate and the professors.

Now the International Convention on Standards of Training (STCW; 1995) and International  Maritime Organization have special requirements, on safety, firefighting, first-aid and medical, crude oil washing, and many other topics not covered by our schools.  This requires candidates to attend such courses privately, and paid for by them. My company Amoco paid for me.

The Nautical School of Savona for many years was one of the very best.  Proof of this was that in the in the 1950s through '80s, the Savonese former Captain/Chief Engineers became Company Inspectors of companies like ESSO, FINA, SHELL, ARAMCO, PHILLIPS, GETTY, AMOCO, etc. and when there was an International Meeting on safety, crude oil problems, etc., we used English but we were the greatest majority and could have used the Savonese dialect instead.

The various reforms of the new Italy from the postwar years have completely degraded the level of teaching.  Consider the various policies of "democratization" like the new belief in the US that math is racist, or the adoption of politically granted minimum passing grades.

The last reform is shameful, as it has eliminated the grade of "candidate for the command of a ship" to "candidate for the conduction of a naval vehicle"--the ministry Mrs. Gelmini probably knew only the conduction of tramway or bus.

Oh, by the way as geography has supposedly "nothing" to do with shipping, the teaching of such a "negligible" matter is only in one of the first years out of five years.

There is now a private small college, said to accept a maximum of 60 people and very expensive, that in three years gives the possibility for any candidate graduate of any high school, also from agrarian school, to get an officer license. "Good free enterprise."

In Savona, Captain (sorry, Conductor) Riccardo Roem de Rabenstein, who has been copied on this discussion, is pushing to have the local Nautical School cover all the courses required by IMO/STCW, and maybe he can write a post about such an important matter.

JE comments:  Last year Eugenio Battaglia sent this piece on Gazaria in Crimea.  Click below.  And Eugenio, please tell us more about Captain Roem de Rabenstein.  The name alone makes him a very interesting guy...


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