New model courses are being validated by HTW, maritime casualties could be used to educate seafarers on simulators and VR training is just around the corner
Tanker crews can soon expect improved training, following IMO’s verification of new model courses, with other courses also in development. Some of these will utilise new technologies around simulation to enhance the competence of seafarers working on crude, product and chemical carriers.
The new model training courses were verified in July 2018, during the fifth session of meetings of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW 5) in London.
This key sub-committee reviewed the basic and advanced training for masters, officers, ratings and other personnel on ships covering some of the new trends in shipping. These included the increasing use of LNG bunkering and different competencies required on ships with greater levels of automation.
These model courses form the basis of classroom, desktop and simulator-based training that seafarers receive under the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and the certificates that they present to shipmanagers.
The handling of LNG will become a key element of training, as more shipowners turn to this fuel as a solution to tightening regulations on fuel and emissions. This is why HTW 5 validated a revised version of the LNG tanker cargo and ballast handling simulator and continues to review basic and advanced training for seafarers on ships subject to the IGF Code (International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint fuels).
HTW is also revising model training for advanced fire-fighting, first aid and bridge resource management, while a new training model is being developed for engineroom resource management.
During HTW 5, the sub-committee validated courses that will aid seafarers that are expected to work on ships with fewer human resources. This included training of ratings that are designated to perform duties in a periodically unmanned engineroom. A new electro-technical course for ratings and a new leadership and managerial skills model were also validated, as was new training covering crisis management and human behaviour.
HTW 5 also validated revisions to training for management-level radar navigation, which includes the use of automatic radar plotting aids and bridge teamwork. It also validated a revision for the use of Automatic Identification Systems.
"Training is inexpensive compared to the costs of an accident and loss of life”
Learning from casualties
There was considerable discussion covering guidance on the application of marine casualty cases and lessons learned for seafarer training and education. This is high on IMO’s list of considerations and will be further discussed at several sub-committees this year and into 2019.
For this to be effective, suitable casualty cases need to be identified and lessons need to be incorporated into training and applied at maritime academies. Simulators would be the best tool for teaching seafarers how to avoid, or manage, a potential casualty, according to Transas leader with Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions Frank Coles.
He is an advocate of using simulators to test mariners’ skills through emergency scenarios. “With simulators, instructors can teach safety and go over accidents and incidents time and again,” he explained. “So, it is drilled-in and impregnated, and it becomes second nature to do the right thing.”
This goes for new cadets, young officers and experienced masters. Tanker owners and managers should focus on improving the competence of existing crew by investing in the regular assessment and retraining of seafarers, said Mr Coles. Officers and ratings should use simulators “once or twice a year to retain their optimal skills” and test their reactions to different scenarios.
“Training is inexpensive compared to the costs of an accident and loss of life,” he said, recommending that shipowners should not baulk at the price of training. “We should have a similar structure to the airline industry,” he said, comparing maritime re-training levels to those of pilots on commercial aircraft. “It is about maintaining skills and competence.”
Simulators will provide bridge officers the opportunity to manoeuvre a ship, which they may not get experience with if tankers are sailed on autopilot or by others in their team. Simulators are also important for seafarers that transfer between ships; officers can practice on bridge equipment and use integrated systems that they may encounter on different vessels.
“Simulators enable people to use equipment on ships together instead of learning separately, such as radar and ECDIS,” said Mr Coles. “They can measure all their skills on one platform to obtain an integrated certificate.”
But it should not just be about gaining the right documentation. “Certification is one thing and competence is another,” said Mr Coles. He thinks shipowners should consider investing in their own simulators if they recoil from the cost or time that mariners would need to use maritime academies.
“Retraining can be done on a ship,” he said. “We are at a point where we can do this on a computer screen or desktop simulator to keep training levels up. We expect to see more desktop simulators on ships.” These can be used for familiarisation, training seafarers that have just joined a ship.
In the week of joining a vessel, a new crew member “should go through exercises on the desktop simulator and then do them every three months or do the courses again,” said Mr Coles.
The competence of engineering officers can also be improved through simulation and by practicing on physical models of engines and other machinery. “We can simulate machinery failures and see if engineers can go through the actions required,” said Mr Coles. Trainers can then share their expertise and demonstrate how they would fix the machinery.
Officers can also use cargo control simulators on tankers to practice loading and unloading of tanks, “so that people are aware of the stress and can learn how to load cargo in a certain way” he explained.
Tanker crews can practice loading procedures and test their skills and reaction to a change from the schedule or a system failure. With the increasing use of LNG as a fuel on tankers, Transas is developing a simulation program that covers LNG refuelling, which could be similar to its existing bunkering programs.
IMO model course update
HTW 5 validated the following model training courses:
Model courses being developed for review at HTW 6 and 7:
Developments in AR and VR technology
VR training will involve trainees using immersive headsets
In the longer term, Wärtsilä’s Mr Coles expects virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will become a key element of training for both bridge and engineering officers, contributing to technical training: “This will not replace full bridge or engineroom simulation, but will be additional,” he said.
AR messaging can be included in simulator programs to explain to trainees what equipment is used for on ships. VR “could be used to teach the repair of complex machinery with AR guides” explained Mr Coles. These types of simulators would have headsets for trainees, handheld devices for interaction with VR programs and a display of what a trainee is visualising through the VR set.
Korean Register of Shipping (KR) has already developed VR training for its vessel surveyors and is applying this to other areas of shipping. Tanker Shipping & Trade was able to test out the VR technology at the Posidonia exhibition in Athens, Greece in June. This involved a VR headset and a handheld device that assists a trainee through a digital model of a vessel.
A surveyor trainee can board a virtual tanker and conduct a simulated survey using the handheld device to motion through the program and interact with equipment. AR text appears to explain what these elements are for and provides advice on the actions that the surveyor can choose.
"A surveyor trainee can board a virtual tanker and conduct a simulated survey using the handheld device to motion through the program and interact with equipment"
KR plans to extend the use of this VR program to other onboard training, said business development manager Jik Lee. “We are in the final stages of introducing VR training simulation for fire drills,” he said, adding “It can also be used for simulation training for fire-fighting and rescue operations.”
Videotel, a subsidiary of KVH Industries, is also developing VR training programs for seafarers. Videotel creative content director Raal Harris said the first courses would be accessible using Oculus technology. This enables a user to apply a VR application on the latest generation of Android mobile phones.
These programs will cover engineering and safety, he told TST. Oculus technology was chosen for its low cost for trainees and shipmanagers and its simplicity, said Mr Harris. But it does have its limitations.
“It is not able to tell if the trainee is walking and there is less user interaction,” he said, adding that it is however portable. This is different to Videotel’s prototype VR program that uses a dedicated headset, wireless controllers, motion sensors and a high definition display. TST has tested this system and an engineering program and felt it was a positive virtual development for engineering training.
However, shipping companies are looking for a more portable and inexpensive technology, said Mr Harris. Hence, Videotel is adapting to the requirements of shipmanagers and is modelling the content to suit this.
“Appetite has grown for VR and it has become an experience,” said Mr Harris, explaining that there are “background lessons” that cadets can apply on board or in a simulator. “We have spent most of our efforts refining the experience and setting rules,” he continued. This has included preventing trainees from feeling sick or dizzy when using VR and understanding the deliverables.
Task-based competency unveiled
In September, KVH introduced a task-based competency feature to the Videotel Performance Manager. This new feature provides a structure for seafarer assessments and further training. It enables managers to evaluate crew skills and knowledge and to monitor their progress.
It is based around the established maritime taskbooks, which seafarers are already familiar with, said KVH senior vice president for EMEA Mark Woodhead. Owners and managers of tankers and gas carriers are already using Task-based Competency to improve seafarer performance and assessments.
Seafarers can use this tool to evaluate their own training requirements and focus on improvements for career development, said Mr Woodhead. Owners and managers can use it to identify where further training is required and candidates for promotion.
“Task-based Competency provides a flexible platform for customers to digitise their own taskbooks,” said Mr Woodhead.