Urgent Need to Automate and Standardize Onboard Training


Published Apr 3, 2019 6:25 PM by Dr. Ahmed Youssef

Maritime academies and universities contribute to the development of human resources, and the introduction of sophisticated computing systems and advanced equipment plays an important role in delivering the syllabus. It is also crucial to maintaining a balance between education and training and to developing cadets' practical knowledge and skills during onboard training.

The rapid development of information technology, computers and communication technology considered by the IMO in the 2010 enhancement of the Standards Training, Certification and Watch keeping for seafarers (STCW) and the Manila Code demonstrate that there are no set standards for the implementation of e-learning in the maritime education and training context.

Technology will allow much cadet training as well as refresher and upgrade training to be carried out onboard in the real workplace within a standardized context, while currently seafarers are required to attend the courses ashore or via computer-based training (CBT) onboard. The opportunity for the seafarer’s private study at sea, a service long denied him/her, will become reality as internet links become common onboard ship.

Maritime academies and universities need to make further effort to use Information Technology, as currently it is mainly limited to the watch keeping task and does not include shipboard seamanship and deck work generally.

Cadet training worldwide has traditionally been the responsibility of shipowners. It followed the practical apprenticeship approach whereby cadets are recruited onboard ships. They were then placed under the tutelage of a master mariner with whom they sailed to acquire the necessary seafaring skills and competencies to enable them to execute their duties as competent seafarers. Unfortunately, this training scheme depends on the ship’s policy or the trainers’ views and shows a lack of standardized onboard training programs and a missing monitoring process. 

Shipboard reality has become available through simulators. This is a high cost solution due to its high initial cost, maintenance and frequent upgrading, and unfortunately simulators does not cover all the required training aspects of a shipboard reality. Practical aspects like seamanship training, deck work and maintenance, safety systems management, shipboard maintenance and inspection routine training, in addition to familiarization with shipboard parts, are not covered by simulators. Moreover, skills like enhancing maritime English language and enhancing management proficiency are not available in simulators training. 

Onboard training that is job-oriented is the most effective part of maritime education and training, where cadets combine theory with practice onboard. However, sometimes is not taken seriously by ship staff, so learning outcomes cannot be predicted. 

The needs of a quality seafarer in the context of a globalized shipping industry are best served through the development of a technological intervention to standardize training onboard and to fulfil the present training gaps that are not covered by simulators or CBT. 

There is a need now for interactive technology-enhanced maritime training, using smart handheld devices in an adaptive context that fits with practical onboard training. Enhancing seafarer skills using the proper tools is critical at this time due to the current and forecast significant shortage of skilled seafarers in the global shipping market, observed by the BIMCO (2010) and (2015) reports.

This article proposes a generic, Interactive Maritime Education and Training (iMET) technological tool that has been validated via Ph.D. research at Liverpool John Moores University in 2018. 

iMET is a mobile application for handheld devices that facilitates practical training onboard the training ship through “learning by doing.” Learning by doing originally refers to a theory of education that was founded by the American educational philosopher John Dewey, who was the most famous proponent of hands-on learning. In his classic book, Experience and Education, first published in 1938, he regards experience as an essential component of the educational process.

iMET provides cadets/students with the capability to improve their knowledge by regularly repeating the same training tasks anytime in addition to self-assess in an interactive personalized way in the real workplace. The aim is to cover cadets’ training requirements in shipboard seamanship and deck work in addition to the watch-keeping task, consequently increasing the quality and productivity of the education and training process. Technology will play a key role in the learning by doing educational concept, as the training is conducted by the app in a manner that fits each user's learning preferences. 

Furthermore, it is hoped that the tool will ensure quality standards relating to operational techniques and onboard activities to ensure quality control requirements are met.

Dr. Ahmed Youssef, Master Mariner, is Professor of Maritime Technology and Director of International Forum for Maritime Transport at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Alexandria, Egypt.

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