Having being in a similar situation as yours, for about the same amount of time, I am totally in agreement with what you are saying. I could not have worded this observation better myself - sadly. I love my job, but the bottom line is money, and money is paid according to license nowadays. Thats great that I can draw a bilge strainer, but is it really relevant nowadays when the bar is so differing across the world (not to mention autocad)?
In my experience on cruise ships, I did indeed sail with a long list of differing nationalities. I found most were good, qualified in my view, and easy to work with. I queried most of my peers about their licenses and their country's licensing system, because I had the same observations when I was working internationally and I was curious about it. Of all nationalities I had discussions with, I manage to identify only a few nations with a similar system of licensing than that of Canada's. That was Venezuela, Chile and Peru. They seem to have a very regimented system, with what I gather was a system closely related to the military as well.
I was sailing under a Assistant Chief who was a Norwegian 27 years old. He was bright, but that is unheard of in Canada! Same with the Dutch, Italians, English... notice a trend here. I have no problem jumping through the hoops, I don't like it, but whatever, I am much more comfortable in my own knowledge base but really, like I said before people look at license level, especially with this paper pushing HR types now in offices, not your experience.
I hear through the grape vine that now the First Aid Course is going to be extended to a 40 hr course now, instead of the 16 hrs it is now. Thats fine and dandy, but give me a break! How much time to have to take out of my life just to maintain a license, never mind upgrade. And the kicker is that it feels like we are the only ones that have to jump through the hoops.
It would be nice to have an evaluation of actual, "on the street" path of licensing throughout the world. I am sure the basic STCW standards are upheld in most jurisdictions, but I believe the interpretation of them after that is widely varying, at least it does seem so from my experience and obviously yours.
There is a reason why Canada, Venezuela and Chile are not internationally recognized pools of seafarers. Perhaps it is time to review why we aren't.
Anyways, it is a topic that bugs me too, and I happy that you brought it up. But if its like my other pet peeve, of working internationally and the associated asinine taxes scheme, then we better just accept that we will have to change careers in the future, if the Canadian government continues to marginalize maritime policies (if they have any) and seafarers in general. Anyways, its late and my rant is becoming blurry. Good night all.
Certified Marine Engineer and Webmaster
Martin's Marine Engineering Page