Zooming in on the new opportunities for global knowledge
Training is not what it used to be: the world has changed, will change even more and in the case of the maritime sector, there will be greater upheavals to come. But the essence of any training is the knowledge, experience and adaptability of those at the front end of this training. In 2021 the effects of the global pandemic will shape the future of maritime training as more opportunities for detailed remote learning come online. Maritime training is racing to keep up with the skillsets of new entrants who are looking to use their technological skills in their new roles.
The maritime world needs radical changes to ensure future seafarer training and education for those in other maritime sectors, does not lag behind the pace of technological developments in shipping. Recent research from the EU-funded SkillSea project suggests that more than 50% of seafarers believe that important content is missing from the Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention. To many seafarers the current training on offer is full of sometimes obsolete knowledge.
The SeaSkills report brought up many interesting statistics:
“The biggest gaps between current training and actual functional needs are with maintenance (reported by 47% of all respondents) and electrical, electronic and control engineering (40%).
Importantly, around 30% of seafarers said current STCW competencies for marine engineering and controlling the operation of the ship are not adequate for onboard duties. 24% said they fell short for navigation and 20% said competencies for radio communications are not in line with actual onboard needs. The survey also showed that the areas where seafarers consider the most serious skill deficiencies currently lie are subjects requiring creative thinking and problem-solving (62%); familiarity with digital technologies, including cyber-security
(61%); teamwork and inter-personal relations (55%); and subjects related to maritime law, insurance and P&I coverage (54%).
The survey of 474 shore-based staff also showed concerns about STCW not addressing competences for shore-based staff training and also identified some of the skills that will be increasingly important over the next decade, including team working, software use, and communications.”
The real issue is not only about what seafarers, port workers, technicians, professional consultants, surveyors, auditors or anyone else involved in the maritime world needs to know. The issue is also how training is provided, enabled and finally delivered to those needing it.
Despite the grim reality of a world ravaged by Covid-19, the one reality is that we are now in a digital age; an age of remote working and this should be seen as a bonus for the maritime training sector. This is the world of virtual reality training; online training and video teaching and the ability to use these technologies to learn at a pace suitable for all.
More and more data is being used in decision making and with the likelihood of social distancing being with us for at least the next few months, training operations around the globe are quickly changing and becoming part of a new digital training world that promises much.
The shipping industry is facing more challenges now in light of the changing global environment but one of the most important challenges is predicting what skills will be needed in the future for seafarers. They will face calls to adapt even faster to new technologies and the increase in data and other digital information is proving difficult for many to come to terms with. What is clear is that new online training needs to be capable of changing quickly to offer those using it the opportunities to learn faster.
STCW TRAINING –
THE GLOBAL APPROACH
Thanks to the IMO the 1978 STCW Convention was the first to establish basic requirements on training, certification and watchkeeping for seafarers on an international level. This was a change from the standards of training, certification and watchkeeping of officers and ratings that had been established by individual governments. The STCW Convention sets out minimum standards for seafarers in these areas and the onus is on countries to meet or exceed these standards.
In 2010 amendments were made to the Convention and Code which introduced a number of important changes related to the provision of training for seafarers.
- Improved measures to prevent fraudulent practices associated with certificates of competency and strengthen the evaluation process (monitoring of Parties’ compliance with the Convention).
- Strengthened provisions on medical
- Revised requirements on hours of work and rest and new requirements for the prevention of drug and alcohol
- New certification requirements for able seafarers, deck and
- New requirements relating to training in modern technology such as electronic charts and information systems
- New requirements for marine environment awareness training and training in leadership and
- New training and certification requirements for electro- technical officers and electro-technical
- Updating of competence requirements for personnel serving on board all types of tankers, including new requirements for personnel serving on liquefied gas
- New requirements for security training for all seafarers, as well as provisions to ensure that seafarers are properly trained regarding piracy and armed
- Refresher training module every five years for basic training on personal survival techniques and fire prevention and firefighting; advanced firefighting; and proficiency in survival craft, rescue boats and fast rescue
- Introduction of modern training methodology including distance learning and e-learning.
- New training guidance for personnel serving on board ships operating in polar Part A currently contains mandatory provisions in this regard.
- New training guidance for personnel operating Dynamic Positioning
One of the most important courses for seafarers is the STCW Advanced Fire Fighting Course as this forms part of the training required for deck and engineering officers who wish to qualify for a certificate of competency and crew who are designated to control firefighting operations. For any seafarer the importance of firefighting can not be over-estimated and with blended learning trainees can learn:
- To identify emergency signals
- To identify the emergency and initiate the emergency actions required
- What types of fire-fighting equipment and appliances are needed to tackle the fire incidences
- The various fire-fighting agents needed
- How to use breathing apparatus;
- Practical fire-fighting
Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) is a method of teaching that integrates technology and digital media with traditional instructor-led classroom activities and where applicable statutory sea time, gives students more flexibility in their learning experiences.
With traditional teaching methods, educational materials were only available during the classroom hours. Students may have been able to take textbooks home with them, but they did not have a way to actually interact or engage with the material. With online learning apps and other technological advances, including Virtual Reality, they have more flexibility to access and engage from remote locations. This accessibility could translate to a much greater interest in learning and more successful and diverse outcomes.
APPRENTICESHIPS MOVING ON
It was the STCW convention that brought about the traditional schooling style of training for seafarers. It was the early step on from the old apprentice style training that placed people onboard vessels of every kind as a prelude to a year or more at sea learning the trade. Time has moved on and yet apprenticeships remain vital to the maritime world: they foster learning skills and the acquisition of real-life knowledge. It is a traditional experience that is still relevant and vital in the 21st century.
The key to successful maritime training lies in the amalgamation of real-time on the job training and the adoption of formal schooling. Yet there are now complications in transferring the land-based training into employment at sea or in other maritime locations. It is still vital that training is continued in the workplace and the pandemic has shown that this is not as simple as pre- Covid. In the past many seafarers never had the opportunity to develop and put their training into practice in the right environments. This has been brought into sharp relief in 2020 and yet there has been a shining light on the horizon and it is likely to prove the salvation of training across the whole maritime world.
DIVERSITY THE KEY TO THE FUTURE
Training provides the core skills, knowledge and with locational training, the right balance to ensure seafarers understand their roles and importance in the maritime chain.
Building capacity and diversity within any maritime workforce will be the prime consideration in the next decade enabling transferrable skills to benefit not only the individual but the maritime world. In accepting this diversity can also be seen as the key to successful remote learning.
The world has embraced remote working and the Zoom video generation has swept across the whole business community, following a trend that has seen us all come to terms with the lockdowns affecting our social and work worlds. But the use of video learning is still in its infancy and the spark has been lit and we need to ensure it remains alive.
THE ZOOM GENERATION PLUS
We are now 25 years and counting into the internet age. Everything at the touch of a screen or tap of a key: information at your fingertips and yet often with nowhere to go. No matter the business or industry, the information is just a step away for most of us. The essence of the solution is there and yet the reality is that content remains the key ingredient in training.
The criticisms of online training have ranged from it being boring and lonely to complete, through to a waste of time and effort. For most people in the maritime world the reality of being on a ship, working in a port or in the operational centres controlling these activities have outweighed the school-based learning approach. Now things have changed and many of us realise that online learning is the future. It has to be speed of operations, the cost-effective nature of digital technology and the need for data collation and reference have shaped this future.
The current offerings from maritime training operations are being updated and refreshed: the courses dealing with general maritime skills and those dedicated ones for seafarers are being tuned for the new maritime world. Training for fire and first-aid courses are high on the list of competencies required and these can be taught initially online and through virtual reality courses.
NEED FOR QUALITY CONTENT
Blended learning combines online educational tools and opportunities for online interactions allied to traditional classroom-based methods of learning. But in the changing world of shipping there needs to be a readjustment of the approach and this is where technology plays a vital part. Online learning has moved beyond the interactions of student and teachers thanks to video calls and the development of new software. The introduction of virtual reality teaching has
injected a new approach to online learning, and this will increase in the next 12 months.
The growth of online learning and the ease of access to digital information means we are even more demanding of content quality and this has prompted online learning organisations to create content that relates to the new maritime world. But what use is high quality content if it can’t be easily accessed?
Among the key priorities mentioned by many in the maritime world are the ease of access to online learning, the content and its relevance to their roles and how flexible the courses are.
FACE TO FACE TRAINING
For seafarers there is a need to be on the water: out on the open ocean and testing themselves against the challenges of what is generally regarded as a unique and challenging environment.
With this in mind it is not hard to appreciate that remote learning has its limitations, and this is also a pressure for the trainers themselves. The obvious question for any maritime training course will be “can we do this online?” If the answer is yes, then the issue remains one of content quality. If not, then the hands-on and practical nature of onboard learning becomes the key issue.
There is a need for the experienced knowledge straight from the ‘horse’s mouth’ delivered by those who have been there and done that. What we will see in the next 12 months will be a hybrid version of online training, rather like the apprenticeship schemes that are still relevant today – but this time delivered by experts from around the world and online, available as and when required.
THE NEED FOR MATCHING SKILLS
The maritime training world will become a mix of virtual reality and in-depth online content as the demand for lifetime training increases.
At the end of 2020 senior executives speaking at the Crew Connect Global 2020, the world’s largest event covering maritime human resources, crew retentions and the education and training of maritime personnel, suggested that some seafarer training and regulatory standards were not matching the modern digital environments in which they were working.
One of the current issues is that much of the training in the maritime sector was more analogue in a digital world: but even in the short time since these comments were made things have developed rapidly. Those entering the world of shipping are looking for roles that encompass their learning experiences and this is online and using digital tools. The shipping world is
finding that many of the graduates they are now employing have come from engineering backgrounds, not maritime trained specifically, and they are looking to learn these skills on the job and use the technology and digital tools they have been used to learning with.
There is no turning back and the digital world will become the accepted home of learning for the maritime sector. Speed and ease of access will be two of the major benefits along with:
Virtual reality training is one area that has accelerated in the past few years: the ability to experience problems and solutions using virtual reality scenarios has shown that being unable to be on the spot is no barrier to knowledge development.
ACCESS TO EXPERTS
Everyone is different in the way we learn, retain knowledge, experience problems and solve them. This is why the use of remote learning enables students at every level, in any form of training to learn at their own pace.
THE GLOBAL LIBRARY
The digital world can bring together the finest voices in the maritime world, the most detailed white papers, reports, case studies and technical manuals together in one place for
every level of knowledge. It is simply not acceptable that in a world full of experienced maritime professionals, their knowledge and skills are not available to help new entrants into these maritime sectors. The use of online learning courses; zoom conferences; virtual reality learning scenarios and input from these professionals is taking the maritime training world to the next level.
CHANGES ON THE WAY
The future for maritime training is bright and provides seafarers with the opportunity to learn in a flexible way, from experts and at times to suit them and their employers. The results are more confident learning outcomes and a recognition of the abilities and skills enhanced by digital training.
There is a current gap between what employers expect and what entrants into the maritime industry come equipped with: they have honed and learned skills using the latest technology and the shipping world is under pressure to move as quickly as the new entrants into the sector. This is a
digital world and maritime training at all levels needs to reflect this. With the use of technology, it is now possible to train, educate and inspire new entrants into the maritime world and also refresh the skills and knowledge of those already working in shipping, in ports or working offshore.