Skills gaps due to technology advances can be filled by simulators, e-learning, virtual reality and onboard mentoring
People are one of the most important assets in shipping and are under increasing pressure to adapt to technological and operational changes.
Which is why training using multiple technologies and applications is increasingly important to shipmanagers, says V.Group’s Marlins business development director Catherine Logie.
V.Group manages a fleet of 600 vessels with 3,000 shore-based staff spread throughout 60 offices in 30 countries. They work in tandem with a global crew pool of 44,000 seafarers.
Ms Logie says training for seafarers and shore staff needs to be varied and driven by data.
Training requirements first need to be identified from technological and regulatory changes impacting ship operations.
“Across the marine industry and beyond, there is a significant amount of pressure to adapt and evolve to improve welfare, safety, security and environmental credentials,” she tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications.
“These pressures are fuelling a host of innovations that seek to modernise shipping and support it in keeping pace with technological developments being widely adopted in other industries.”
This includes higher levels of onboard automation, digitalisation, cyber security, smart navigation and internet of things (IoT) applications.
“In the face of technological progress that has the potential to dehumanise shipmanagement, it is essential to make sure the human element is maintained,” Ms Logie says. “Given the importance of the people, we should ensure they are complementing technological developments to add an additional layer of value. This is where the importance of training must not be overlooked.”
Marlins uses seafarer data, operational data and analytics to guide crew training and identify skill gaps. “Having established training gaps, it is important to remember that delivering effective training is not all about providing the latest technology,” says Ms Logie. “But embracing a range of options most suitable to the training need.”
Options include classroom learning, e-learning, onboard mentoring, simulators and virtual reality options.
Marlins’ analytics and training is supported by V.Group’s ShipSure2.0 digital platform, with training and skills data gathered by the shore-based fleet cell.
“This ensures crew are continuously up-to-date with their mandatory training needs, proactively ensuring seafarers have all the knowledge needed to support operations effectively and efficiently,” says Ms Logie.
V.Group’s consultative approach redresses training gaps shipowners might face and ensures the right solutions are methodically targeted to specific needs.
“By iteratively developing training, facilitated with data, the true value of effective training can be realised,” says Ms Logie. But changes are needed to improve shipboard safety, which is V.Goup’s biggest priority.
“One way to guarantee a consistently high standard of crew is by training to support the right culture,” says Ms Logie.
“Minimising risk can be achieved by ensuring mariners and shore-based crew are as skilled as possible in preventing incidents,” she says.
“However, it is vital that training goes further. It is not simply about education in process and procedure, but rather stimulating a culture of safety.”
V.Group drills in its safety culture at every level as it empowers seafarers to raise concerns. “We allow every mariner to speak up, especially if they see something that could be a safety issue,” says Ms Logie. “After all, 20 pairs of eyes sharpened to identifying risk are better than one.”
V.Group has seen a 14% year-on-year rise in issue reporting and a 34% reduction in lost-time injuries throughout 2019. “By delivering the right training to address specific gaps, and forming a flatter leadership structure, a true culture of safety can be developed, benefiting shipowners and seafarers alike,” says Ms Logie.
Training needs to address almost constant maritime technological advances. But IMO’s international convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), is struggling to keep pace, says Wärtsilä global director of simulation Neil Bennett.
“Over the last 25 years we have witnessed a continuing increase in the gap between competence provided by regulated training and the training required to achieve competence on the modern equipment found on vessels in operation,” he says.
As a result, shipowners are introducing their own training to fill the gap. Mr Bennett notes a dramatic increase in the proportion of non-regulated training compared to regulated training provided to seafarers using simulators.
Wärtsilä Voyage supplies academies and shipowners with navigational training platforms and content based on its Navi Trainer Professional (NTPro) systems and a Technological Simulator (TechSim) portfolio comprising engineroom and liquid cargo handling simulations.
Wärtsilä is developing type-specific training packages for bridge, engineroom and cargo handling solutions. The first of these is for Wärtsilä’s LNG fuel supply solution LNGPac, says Mr Bennett. Other type-specific training packages will be introduced for all Wärtsilä solutions as a base for developing training simulation for generic equipment.
Wärtsilä navigation simulation solutions manager Johan Ekvall says cadets require more simulator time to practice different scenarios and to close the competence gap.
“Sea time is still very important as it provides experience which cannot be reproduced in a simulator, such as the psychological factors of being on a ship,” says Mr Ekvall. “But the efficiency, quality assurance and the breadth of training situations a simulator can bring to training is superior to training done on board.
“We believe more time in simulation training could shorten the time for both cadet training and promotions, and even improve the quality if the training objectives are clear and the teaching is well designed,” he adds.
New technology can be adapted for training purposes. Emerging solutions, such as distributed learning courses and cloud-based training programmes enable cadets to access training beyond the classroom, says Mr Ekvall.
“This could allow for developing short pre-courses to familiarise cadets with specific equipment types,” he says. “It will be possible to train anywhere, at any time and with individually tailored content.”
Wärtsilä is working closely with some of its major customers on pilot programs for its cloud-based solutions, which will enable schools to provide access to simulators away from the classroom via internet browsers.
Additionally, Wärtsilä will combine virtual reality (VR) with its simulation models. “Smart realities will place students on a virtual bridge or engineroom and provide a more immersive experience than the joypad, controls and monitors that currently mediate the simulation experience,” says Wärtsilä technological simulation solutions manager Vittorio Esposito. “This will ease the burden schools face in changing configurations in simulator rooms and new, cutting-edge tools will appeal to today’s younger recruits,” he explains.
Distributed learning, type-specific training and VR are part of Wärtsilä’s smart simulation vision, says Mr Bennett. “Smart simulation is the next generation of our simulation platform, enhanced and redesigned for a rapidly changing, digitalised maritime industry and the next generation of seafarers,” he says.
Training providers Seagull Maritime and Videotel, along with software developer Tero Marine and document management company Coex have formed new company Ocean Technologies Group. Its chief executive Manish Singh says this will enable more seafarer development and benefit owners.
“We are working together to find synergies and to find value for shipowners, operators and managers,” he tells Maritime Optimisation & Communications. “Integrating ourselves as a learning and technology partner requires us to offer a broader portfolio of services and merge our skillsets,” he explains, adding this will lead to product and technology development.
This will benefit ship operators with a wider range of training services.
“As a group we can see shipping challenges, solve these problems and add more value. We are tuned in to the optimisation of running their vessels,” says Mr Singh.
Ocean Technologies’ group of companies serve more than 20,000 vessels and about 1,000,000 seafarers with a large data-rich picture of learning and development behaviour. Videotel managing director Raal Harris says this will drive further development of seafarer training resources. “Our scale means we can respond quickly to the needs of seafarers and shipping companies,” he says.
Videotel and Seagull can create specific training for manufacturers’ high-value systems, such as main engines, generators, ballast water treatment systems and exhaust abatement technology.
“We can produce type-specific training for plant maintenance because equipment failures are often derived from operational failures,” says Mr Harris. “It is about following the right procedures because poor maintenance can cause incidents and accidents, increase running costs and shorten the life of critical equipment and parts,” he explains.
Mr Harris agrees training becomes more important as ship operators install more advanced technology. “The human element in technology is often forgotten about,” he comments. “Automation has an impact on how people work, so we must not lose sight of the fact that humans should be seen as key factors when designing technical advances.”
Ocean Technologies’ companies will be enablers in delivering more than just training and management systems to ship operators and seafarers.
“It is about talent management and building up competencies, not just training,” says Mr Harris. “It is about how to support seafarers and focus on their full employment lifecycle. There are a lot of opportunities to work closer with manning and crewing agencies as we now have additional resources.”
One of the examples he offers is developing VR as a training aid for equipment-specific training. “VR training can be done on ships. Portable VR sets that support six degrees of freedom like the Oculus Quest technology enables hands-on training without the need for additional sensors and a large floor space,” he explains.
“This is good for high-value equipment and machinery that can be easily damaged by incorrect operations or by using the wrong tools in maintenance. There is potential for training high-risk onboard operations such as working with high-voltage systems.”
New simulation models
Kongsberg Digital has developed a fire-fighting simulator and will deliver the first K-Sim Safety simulator to the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue’s training centre in Horten, Norway. This includes a full-mission simulator for teaching STCW advanced fire-fighting courses, including methods of organising and training fire teams, inspecting and servicing fire detection, extinguishing systems and equipment, and controlling onboard fire-fighting operations.
It uses a realistic representation of the layout on a crude oil carrier and an interactive 3D WalkThrough software engine that combines precise object and equipment models with immersive visuals. This simulator exposes trainees to all conceivable scenarios and situations related to preventing and dealing with onboard fires.
Three separate teams, a management team and two fire-fighting teams, can be trained simultaneously on exercises designed to replicate onboard emergencies.
Wärtsilä Smart Simulation will be officially introduced at Wärtsilä’s Transas simulation user conference, SIMUC 2020, to be held at Solent University in Southampton, UK on 16-18 June 2020