IMO’s standard training requirements may no longer be enough to satisfy owner’s requirements for their crew to show competency in the latest technology
IMO’s International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) is a requirement for OSV training. However, owners are investing in further levels of simulator training, e-learning, competency assessments and virtual reality (VR) technology.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents vessel owners’ interests at IMO, has called on the governing body to update STCW to match the realities of modern training. ICS chairman Esben Poulsson has called for revisions to these rules, as many vessel owners and managers are adopting additional training and assessments of officers holding STCW certification.
Mr Poulsson thinks STCW can be revised to adopt more of the technical advances made in training. STCW should also reflect advances in automation, digitalisation and hybrid propulsion technology that OSV owners have embraced.
STCW needs to prepare for future technology, such as remote control operations and it should be able to mesh seafarer training information into the systems that owners and charterers use to assess and track competence and experience.
“IMO needs to recognise new developments in training and the competencies that will be required to operate vessels in the future”
Regulators have not stood still since STCW was first introduced and there have been largescale changes, including the Manila amendments in 2010. However, Mr Poulsson believes that this was essentially evolution and that it is now time for real change. He wants IMO to recognise new developments in training and the competencies that will be needed to operate vessels in the future.
For example, VR is being used to mimic OSV operations in a desktop simulator. Uptime International has developed a VR training system for operators of walk-to-work gangways, which was demonstrated in the supporting exhibition of this year’s Annual Offshore Support Journal Conference.
This VR resource, which was tested by OSJ, provides trainees with an immersive environment that simulates the type of conditions they would encounter while operating gangways on offshore renewables and oil and gas maintenance projects.
Within the program, operators use controls to manoeuvre a gangway to set it down on a static platform, such as the landing point on an offshore wind turbine foundation.
In this VR environment, operators are tested in their abilities to swing the gangway out from the accommodation or crew supply vessel. They then extend the walkway and safely and securely land it on the structure.
Elsewhere, KVH Videotel is creating VR programs to train and assess seafarers as an additional resource to its existing e-learning and video training courses. In October, KVH Videotel and OMS-VR agreed to produce and distribute VR maritime training.
Together they will develop a series of VR training segments over the next two years, to build a portfolio of more than 40 training courses. KVH Videotel managing director Raal Harris expects the appetite for VR training and assessment to grow rapidly.
He says the first courses will be available on Oculus technology, which enables a user to apply a VR application on the latest generation of Android mobile phone. “This makes it cost-effective and widely accessible to seafarers,” he says.
The topics for existing and future VR modules include critical safety material, cargo and engineering tasks, and industry best-practice exercises. These will conform with STCW requirements, but will extend trainees’ competence beyond these standards, as offshore vessel owners now expect.