Advanced simulator training can teach seafarers how to avoid operational errors in a safe and monitored environment
Vessel owners should provide appropriate training for their mariners when bridge technology is updated to mitigate the risk of vessel-platform collisions or ship groundings. That is the view held by London P&I Club loss prevention manager Carl Durow, who would also like to see refresher training and familiarisation courses provided when onboard technology is upgraded.
“Management of change is key to ensuring that the introduction of both new equipment and processes into navigation do not bypass mariners,” he says, noting: “The human element remains, despite the march of technology, the most likely and capable element of increasing and decreasing the risk of accidents.”
Insurers are the backstop for payments following marine and offshore accidents, which is why P&I Club’s urge vessel owners to go beyond mandatory requirements under IMO’s Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), to manage seafarer competence in systems and technology.
“This responsibility goes beyond that of statutory, generic training,” Mr Durow says. “It requires vessel management to take the lead in ensuring that crew have detailed familiarity with their equipment and processes.”
He focuses on the introduction of e-navigation technology as more electronic chart display and information systems (ECDIS) are installed in OSV bridges. ECDIS replaces paper charts with electronic navigational charts (ENCs), providing more information while being easier to manage and update. ECDIS can also overlay ENCs with radar and Automatic Identification System (AIS) information, providing greater levels of situational awareness to OSV bridge teams.
Mr Durow believes ECDIS also reduces voyage planning time, enabling officers to concentrate on other elements of bridge operations and improving navigation safety.
“In the hands of the competent navigator, modern ECDIS and e-navigation should be a magnificent tool that can enhance the practice of safe passage planning and execution and reduce the workload on busy bridge teams,” he says.
Competence is the key to these safe bridge operations, and this comes from training and assessment. “There are no marine industries in which ship handling and advanced seamanship are more key to safe operations than offshore,” says Mr Durow.
“The offshore sector is distinct from other sectors in that passages can be from port to port, port to offshore location or between offshore locations,” he continues.
ECDIS can assist crew with the complexity of navigating between projects and within operations, but only if navigators have completed training that is specific to the type of ECDIS they are using.
“In the hands of properly trained deck officers, ECDIS ought to bring all the facets of a detailed passage plan into every voyage conducted, with minimal workload being placed on the navigating officer,” says Mr Durow.
Training should also cover management of folios of ENCs to ensure onboard ECDIS has the correct and updated electronic charts for the operational areas and voyages.
“Proper and effective ECDIS ought to free up the time of properly trained staff to concentrate on the application of their key industry skills – ultimately reducing incidences of personal injury during operations and losses related to property and the environment,” says Mr Durow.
Bridge system training can be conducted on desktop simulators, for generic and type-specific training on ECDIS, and in simulation suites for use of all systems that OSV officers will need to operate.
Wärtsilä Voyage Simulation expert Alex Ponomarev thinks familiarisation training is key to efficient OSV bridge operations.
“Cadets need to demonstrate they know the general function of ECDIS,” he explains. “Plus, they need type-specific training to show that they know all of the buttons, functions and procedures on ECDIS.”
Seafarers may need to be retrained on ECDIS as new models are introduced, so they remain familiar with these features and functions.
Mr Ponomarev thinks officer training should also include human element and leadership training on simulators. “There is a difference between completing courses for STCW compliance to serve on a ship and training to improve competence,” he says.
These are some of the reasons why Wärtsilä continues to develop simulation programs, based on its NTPRO 5000 software, for full-mission bridge simulators that cover the growing type of OSVs in the offshore oil and gas and renewables sectors.
“We worked with owners to develop new vessel models,” Mr Ponomarev explains. “We collect data from real vessels and shipyards to develop our models. Our simulators can then be used to deliver all kinds of training, including navigation, collision avoidance regulations, ECDIS, type-specific equipment training and bridge resource management.”
Programme development is more intense for OSV training than for merchant ships because of the variety of operations and environments vessels and bridge teams encounter. “With OSV simulators, the mathematics is complex to model,” says Mr Ponomarev. “Visual systems, bridge controls and operator screens are different from commercial ship simulators and need to be aligned to match the vessels and offshore scenarios.”
For example, the simulators need to match the vertical and horizontal views for anchor-handling tugs and other OSVs and many simulators are designed differently, with fore and aft bridges.
Wärtsilä improved the models and functionality of its OSV simulations “because of the physics developments in graphics cards and program engines” Mr Ponomarev continues. “It means we can mimic more locations and replicate the movement of people on vessel decks” for training crew on drilling rig anchor-handling work.
The next developments in training simulation will involve augmented reality (AR) and gamification, which introduces competitive elements from video games, says Mr Ponomarev.
AR provides trainees with additional information on screens during classes, advising them what various devices and buttons do on a vessel or a console.
“We have tools in our E-Tutor to enable simulator operators to send messages to trainees to prompt them,” Mr Ponomarev explains. Or the environmental conditions within the simulation program can be improved if trainers identify when trainees are struggling.
“If a vessel has been in a geographic location (in simulation) and visibility is set at less than 100 m then we can improve the visibility and send a message to the trainee,” he adds.
Wärtsilä has also included scoring processes in simulators to engage with trainees. “We identified two approaches with users,” says Mr Ponomarev. “Trainers either give students maximum points at the start of the exercise and deduct them during the course. Or they start trainees on zero and they give them points for positive actions – with the score displayed on screens.”
New simulator centres
Wärtsilä Voyage Simulation is suppling simulators to two new training centres opening on the south coast of the UK this year. It is providing a full suite of simulators for a new training facility at Solent University’s Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, located in Southampton.
Wärtsilä’s scope of supply for the Southampton facility includes eight navigational bridges, seven DP simulators, an engineroom simulation suite, two ECDIS classrooms and liquid cargo handling, radiocommunications, high voltage and offshore crane operation simulators.
Warsash School of Maritime dean Syamantak Bhattacharya says: “The simulation centre will be a central pillar of our maritime education, training and research programme,” hence requiring the latest simulator technology.
Wärtsilä is also supplying and configuring the software solutions for a new training facility in Portsmouth. Viking Maritime Group is opening a maritime skills academy with bridge and engineroom simulators.
Kongsberg Digital has gained orders for simulators including bridge and engineroom trainers from centres in Belgium, Australia and South Korea. It is supplying simulators to the Flemish Service for Employment and Vocational Training (VDAB)’s facilities in Zeebrugge, Belgium. This includes a K-Sim bridge simulator specifically for dredgers to help students gain greater understanding of the dynamic nature of dredging operations.
The Royal Australian Navy has ordered new K-Sim full mission bridge simulators for its HMAS Watson Bridge facility in Sydney, Australia. These will be used to train naval officers undertaking all levels of shiphandling, navigation, warfare and bridge management courses.
Kongsberg Digital will also deliver suites of simulators on two training ships operated by the Korea Maritime and Ocean University and Mokpo National Maritime University. These simulators will have a range of maritime workstations and sensors linked to the actual bridges on these training ships.
In July, Kongsberg Digital secured an order from Indian oil producer Reliance Industries for a subsea production system simulator. This is an online digital representation of the subsea systems on the KG-D6 project in the Bay of Bengal.
Its offline mode will be used for planning and training for maintenance and intervention of subsea equipment. Simulator applications include hydrate formation monitoring, virtual metering, inventory management, leak detection and corrosion and erosion monitoring.
VStep Simulation has secured contracts to deliver simulators to two training centres in northern Europe for training navigation. This includes new equipment for the Maritime Academy Harlingen for teaching vessel manoeuvring, handling and navigation in coastal waters. These simulators include the maritime package within VStep’s upgraded response simulator for safety and emergency training.
The Polytechnique School de Huy in Belgium will also receive a Nautis full mission simulator for students to practice their vessel manoeuvring, handling, navigation and communication skills.
Merging e-learning with OSV fleet management
Online distance learning has been combined with OSV fleet management by the financers behind Seagull Maritime. Private equity backer Oakley Capital Investments, which acquired Seagull in Q1 2019, purchased Tero Marine and its suite of fleet management software in April. This brings together Seagull’s computer-based training programs and seafarer competence assessment products with Tero’s TM Master tools for asset management, planned maintenance and business intelligence.
Future offerings from Seagull are expected to combine both fleet management software, e-learning and seafarer assurance programs. Oakley Capital Investments bought training video producer Videotel Marine from KVH Industries for US$90M in May. Both e-training businesses will be managed independently, but will collaborate on producing new content and technology.
Seagull managing director Roger Ringstad says investment will deliver a broader range of training. “As the industry continues to make advancements in digitalisation, we see significant opportunities to further enhance the breadth and depth of products and services we offer our clients,” he says. Videotel managing director Raal Harris thinks this partnership will open new technologies for maritime e-learning.