Modernizing Ferry Services With Best Practice Training

FastCat example content

By Jeannie Tse 2017-05-03 21:34:09

In 2015, Archipelago Philippine Ferries Corp (APFC) embarked on a modernization initiative to improve their ferry services. Determined to make passenger well-being and security a top priority, APFC invested millions of dollars to acquire the country's first fleet of catamaran ferries, known as FastCat. As a part of this program, APFC is developing a new approach to crew training. They recently partnered with Marine Learning Systems to develop and implement a blended learning program.

Over 80 percent of fatal ferry accidents can be attributed to human error. This is well-known among the maritime community. And while many factors, such as fatigue, contribute to human error, arguably one of the largest is inadequate training. The importance of quality crew training is undeniable. After all, the crew is the front line of accident prevention and response.
However, the range of positions, vessels and differences in maritime background makes standardized training for ferry operators difficult. These issues are compounded in developing countries where mariners can be inefficient and poorly trained. Both on-board and off-site crew training impose a large time and cost burden on crew and owners.

One approach for improvement is to augment a traditional training process with online, electronic learning (also known as eLearning). Doing so adds a mobile component, optimizes learning outcomes and makes training more efficient. How so? 

eLearning Benefits

The obvious advantage of using eLearning is that seafarers can train when and where it suits them. This reduces the need for off-site training and lowers travel costs. A key advantage to eLearning is that it accommodates them as individual learners. Everyone attains the same knowledge in the end, but each can spend as much or as little time as they need on a topic.

Another benefit comes from the improvement in training outcomes when we use "blended learning". This is a technique that combines face-to-face training and eLearning. Each training method has strengths the other cannot offer, and therefore the combination is more effective than either can be alone. This blending of learning techniques also allows crew to receive standardized, best-practice training through eLearning. Learners arrive on vessels with uniform background understanding, reducing on-board training time and making it more effective. 

Finally, eLearning allows for the use of a learning management system (LMS), an online system for managing and delivering training.  One of the greatest strengths of learning management systems is their ability to generate reports and analytics on training. Managers can track training activities, assessment performance and crew competency.  This provides deep insights into the health of a training program – both for the individual trainees and for the organization. LMS analytics also provide operators with a way of measuring the effectiveness of the training programs on an ongoing basis with the goal of continuous improvement. 

APFC’s New Crew-Training Program

Marine Learning Systems has been working with APFC since the fall of 2016 to implement their maritime-specific learning management system. To support this, new online course content is being created. These modules, covering topics from vessel and port familiarization to emergency procedures and safety culture, were chosen after an extensive review of existing training practices and content. 

Three courses (FastCat Safety culture, Vessels, and Safety Features) have already been developed. They are currently going through a pilot test phase with a group of 50 users. Feedback on the courses and the system will be gathered at the end of the trial phase and changes will made before the courses are rolled out across APFC. Planned changes include additional video, text and image content. Several other courses are also in development, and will be completed after the initial pilot phase ends.

Future plans include adapting existing training materials created by Interferry, the IMO, the Shipping Department of Bangladesh and the Worldwide Ferry Safety Association. This collaboration was formed after Interferry began its ferry safety initiative in 2005. The resulting training program, trialed in Bangladesh, addresses the human factor. Issues covered included vessel stability, weather, working with other crewmembers and more. By adapting the materials into online courses, APFC crew can easily access the materials in a format that is familiar to them. 

Ultimately, APFC aims to create a standardized training infrastructure. As a by-product of this move, they are advancing the training of their crewmembers and employees. Their vision is to demonstrate to the local shipping industry (and the world) that it is possible to operate modern, safe and comfortable vessels in the Philippines, backed by efficient and highly effective modern training.

Information about the training course that is being designed for mobile devices, tablets and smart phones, will be presented at the Ferry Safety and Technology conference on May 11 in New York City.  More information is available here.

Jeannie Tse is a marketing associate at Marine Learning Systems.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.