Shipowners are adopting e-learning, while providers are developing VR-based training to help managers overcome operational challenges
Training providers are using digital technology to ensure seafarers have the skills they need to complete their work safely, reliably and effectively.
E-learning provider Videotel has opened dedicated virtual reality (VR) suites in its London and Singapore offices to enhance seafarer knowledge.
“[VR is] the new frontier,” says Videotel managing director Raal Harris, adding “The moment I tried it I knew we had to explore what it could do for maritime training.”
The company’s steps into such technology were strengthened by its recent US$90M acquisition by private equity house Oakley Capital Investments, which has a background in investing in maritime and education.
Videotel’s VR training module Wall Wash Test – Protecting Your Cargo was developed in association with maritime software development company OMS.
This title focuses on wall-wash inspection, a means of measuring the effectiveness of tank cleaning by applying a solvent to selected areas of the cargo tank’s bulkheads and analysing the solvent to assess quality. If not performed properly, the vessel may have to undergo additional tank cleaning, costing both money and time.
“By immersing the learner in the VR environment, it is possible to give them a deeper understanding of the processes and procedures required to undertake a wall wash test effectively. The user has 360° visualisation with haptic motion controllers, providing an unrivalled simulation of the real-world task a competent seafarer must perform,” says Mr Harris.
“Chemicals are volatile and the carriage of a previous load can hugely impact the next one if the correct processes around tank cleaning are not followed,” he explains.
“Using our VR training title means learning and assessment can reach higher levels of accuracy than otherwise could be attained as users learn by doing.”
As well as investing in VR technology, Videotel has also in recent years re-engineered its software, user interface and entire way of processing and storing training through its Videotel Performance Manager suite of applications.
“No one expects to have to read a manual anymore” says Mr Harris, “The interface has to do the heavy lifting for you so you know instinctively how to access the information you need.”
Seafarers can access courses and managers can monitor crew training and identify gaps in competences.
“We spent a lot of effort across our systems to make them dynamic, responsive and where possible fun” Mr Harris adds. “That means really challenging your designers and doing huge amounts of user testing with your target audience to make sure your assumptions stand up.”
Recently, Manish Singh was appointed chief executive of Videotel and sister company Seagull. “We are investing in 3D animation and adopting gaming technology to make learning more interactive and enhance the experience for our users,” says Mr Singh.
Seagull produces interactive computer-based training courses for seafarers worldwide.
“We have started to make significant investments in our technology platform and software development to offer new tools and insights that will become an intrinsic part of our client’s risk management and talent development framework,” says Mr Singh.
Shipowners, operators and managers can provide effective crew training by using e-learning as part of an integrated suite of education including classroom, practical and simulator training and onboard mentoring.
Columbia Shipmanagement president Mark O’Neil says shipowners and operators should optimise their training options by offering e-learning and simulator-based training.
He says there are inefficiencies in the methods ship operators use to provide crew education. “There could be huge savings by optimising training,” he explains. “There are inefficiencies in training and crew rotations from flying seafarers across the world for training courses.” Ship operators should train seafarers close to their homes by using local academies backed by e-learning.
Efficiencies can also be achieved by better understanding the certification levels of seafarers, and their current and future competency requirements.
“We can identify seafarers that do not have relevant certification,” says Mr O’Neil. “We can then provide e-learning to ensure seafarers have certification when they sail and do not need to be mobilised to training centres or replaced by others.”
E-learning is useful for recertification, revision and checking seafarers’ knowledge on flag, port state requirements and operator procedures. Computer-based training can also update mariners and superintendents on new and upcoming regulations.
For example, as the shipping industry prepares to tackle environmental challenges, e-learning courses will increasingly cover requirements and methods for improving energy efficiency, says IMO technical officer for the marine environment division John Calleya. Various organisations are producing e-learning courses covering energy efficiency aimed at helping the shipping industry reduce emissions and fuel consumption, says Mr Calleya.
These programs could provide knowledge on optimising ship voyages to reduce fuel and minimising delays at ports. This will be part of IMO’s strategy to reduce emissions from the industry this decade.
Greek owners boost safety and crew competence
Kyklades Maritime Corp and Modion Maritime Management are the latest Greek shipowners to adopt e-learning to enhance their seafarers’ abilities to successfully manage stressful challenges and make effective decisions.
These ship operators have both contracted SQLearn to provide e-learning programs on board their tankers and dry cargo ships. They will install Dolphin platform hardware on their vessels to access a growing suite of e-learning courses and in shore offices to enable managers to monitor the training process across the fleet in real-time.
SQLearn’s Dolphin library consists of remote learning courses based on IMO’s STCW (Standards for Training, Crewing and Watchkeeping) topics and to meet national, international and flag requirements.
Kyklades Maritime is deploying Dolphin hardware on its fleet of 19 vessels, including VLCC, Suezmax and Aframax crude tankers and LR2 product tankers. Kyklades Maritime chief executive Dimitris Patrikios says competent and effective seafarers are essential for operating its tanker fleet.
“Our company is focused on operating modern and efficient vessels with the most sophisticated and comprehensive management systems available,” says Mr Patrikios.
“We have at the core of our activities well-trained crew and safe operations,” he continues. “Therefore, we believe our co-operation with SQLearn will meet the high standards we set for providing our crew with specialised and complete training through innovative e-learning courses.”
Modion Maritime Management is installing SQLearn Dolphin platform to provide e-learning services for its operating fleet of nine dry bulk carriers. Modion Maritime operations manager Stergios Nikolaidis says SQLearn enables the operator to train onboard and ashore personnel and manage their training activities.
“We have been on a mission to put safety and human protection at the centre of our operations,” he says. “Effective training is the key to achieving exceptional performance.”