The Nautical Institute's 2017 Year in Retrospect


Published Jan 8, 2018 6:22 PM by Captain David (Duke) Snider

When writing an end of year retrospective, one is usually prone to look for industry deviations from past norms as either highlights or lowlights of the preceding 12 months. Indeed, in the global maritime industry one could certainly look upon downturns in certain market sectors as points to delve into.  2017 has seen a continued low in sectors such as offshore oil and gas, bulk and even container shipping, but in some ways, these have been partially offset by steady or slightly higher activity in others including the renewable energy sector and Polar Regions navigation. There is no doubt that many offshore vessels remain idle, a number of offshore companies have ceased to exist; bulk cargo prices in most sectors have been the lowest in years and the container industry has seen highly publicized bankruptcies and consolidations throughout 2017.  

The global shipping industry is one of constant ebb and flow of peaks and troughs in activity in each sector as industry players attempt to anticipate and then adjust to changing demands. Within The Nautical Institute, we too are familiar with these trends and remain flexible to these shifts, always trying to provide our members with flexible options as their career paths change within the industry as sector needs change.  

One example of this is the flexibilities recently introduced to the Dynamic Positioning Officer (DPO) certification that provides certified DPO’s alternatives that enable them to re-validate after completing the newly launched re-validation course even when not consistently employed in their sector due to down turns. This ensures that when the offshore industry returns to a more robust level of activity, sufficient certified DPOs will still exist. Another new initiative in the DPO sector is the Emergency Shiphandling course designed to help ensure the DPO has hands-on skills to deal with control system failures.

Other new Nautical Institute initiatives to meet the changing demands of industry over the past year included the introduction of the Ice Navigator Scheme that aims to provide the first truly international standard of certification for mariners in ice operation competency. Launched in July, the scheme complements the requirements outlined in the Polar Code, adding the necessity for practical “ice time” or practical experience operating ships in ice covered waters and extends certification to cover ships and operations outside the limited confines of polar waters. The scheme also provides guidance for training institutions wishing to be recognized as meeting The Nautical Institute’s Ice Navigation standards. Both of The Nautical Institute’s ice related publications, Polar Ship Operations – A Practical Guide and Handling Ships in Ice will be renewed with second editions in 2018.

Another initiative launched this year is the Navigation Assessment Course which accompanies the book, Navigation Assessments – A Guide to Best Practice. This course provides attendees guidance in conducting useful and practical onboard assessment of the day to day navigational activity so as to guide officers on board in maintaining and refining best practice relative to practical navigation.

Meeting the changes within the maritime industry, The Nautical Institute's venerable Command Scheme was also totally revamped and relaunched in 2017.  

Every three years, The Nautical Institute has coordinated a series of Command Seminars. This year the five Command Seminars conducted in Singapore, Cape Town, London, Cork and Cyprus by local branches focused on “Navigation Incidents and Their Causes.” Common threads noted throughout the series included; the human element and specifically mentoring as vital to future best practice in navigation; the growing negative impact of increasing instances of fatigue; the conflict between technical equipment design and installation with user friendly and practical user interface on board and the ever-growing need to adapt inter-culturally at sea.

Today, The Nautical Institute spans the globe with members in 120 countries. Our branch structure continues to grow, with now more than 50 branches, the two newest branches launched in 2017 in Indonesia and Northwest India. Our global breadth makes The Nautical Institute the preeminent voice for maritime professionals, ensuring we are at the leading edge of industry, ensuring best practice at sea and ashore.

It's been championed by The Nautical Institute since 2008, has been discussed for over 10 years, and should be making the mariner's life easier by the end of the decade. S-Mode, the standardized display for electronic navigation equipment, aims to decrease the burden of familiarization when a seafarer steps aboard a new ship and is faced with unfamiliar navigation equipment.

Equipment manufacturers recognize the need for greater standardization and in a recent Nautical Institute webinar, Richard Doherty, CIRM's chief technical officer, says manufacturers are working towards standard features that will be always on. This should allow existing equipment to be updated through software updates, speeding up standardization across the global fleet. Doherty says that IMO will discuss the draft S-Mode Guidelines early in 2018; the final version could be issued in late 2019.

Before then, we need mariners' feedback to make sure we get it right. The industry has proposed a wide range of new icons to represent key navigation tasks. An online survey is open for just a few months to test mariners' reactions, so please visit https://tinyurl.com/guessicons to have your say.

Captain David (Duke) Snider is President of The Nautical Institute. 

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