Challenges to prepare seafarers for shipping’s decarbonisation

A recent study shines light on the importance of seafarers’ training to advance shipping’s decarbonisation, with DNV analyzing the challenges in providing such training.

Both maritime academies and maritime education and training providers normally offer training in line with an applicable IMO Model course in order to ensure they comply with the STCW requirement.

Such training leading up to a Certificate of Competency (CoC) or Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) needs to be approved by the Flag administration. The CoP is only issued by the flag State upon application from the candidate.

However, challenges remain:

#1 Slow regulatory development makes investment in seafarer training challenging

The development of new training courses is expensive, and the maritime experts point out that it is not initiated prior to requirements from regulators or the industry. It is considered important that high priority be given to the STCW revision, to allow time for the industry to develop the necessary training courses. The literature review also substantiates that it takes years to introduce new training programs and points out that governments can facilitate the development of training through adequate policies and necessary funds.

#2 A need to invest in training facilities and up-to-date equipment

According to the literature, an important aspect of training involves the exposure of seafarers to technologies which mirror real-life scenarios, particularly to enhance safety training. Such simulation technology enables the learning of navigational skills, ships’ reactions, and behaviors in a risk-free environment. Indeed, several interviewees cited the importance of seafarers being exposed to the same technology in training as they will find on board the vessels. In this regard, it was highlighted that the practical use of engine, bridge and automation systems should form an essential component of seafarer training.

In addition, industry experts underlined the importance of the availability of simulators and engine/automation replicas at training centers and schools, in order to provide opportunities for hands-on learning experiences.

It was also noted that utilizing Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality tools, as well as simulator-based learning and other techniques, can foster the development of digital skills. Several interviewees pointed out that parts of the industry may need to upgrade training facilities with actual replicas of engine rooms, automation systems, simulators and Virtual Reality/ Augmented Reality tools. It was also highlighted by several participants that more high-tech training facilities would be needed to train seafarers in the decades to come.

#3 Availability of competent trainers

The availability of instructors with the required competence was described as a substantial challenge by several interviewees. One interviewee said that “We will be lacking seafarers and the people to train the seafarers”. This was further echoed by a workshop participant, who underlined that “It may be a training constraint to find training educators with practical seagoing experience”.

The number of available instructors with knowledge and experience from vessels using modern automation systems and running on new fuels is expected to be low and could become a constraint when a large number of seafarers require training. It was also highlighted by several interviewees that there will be a need for highly qualified instructors to meet the increased demands for training in the future.

A lack of qualified maritime instructors is also reflected in the relevant literature and was cited as a common challenge in a survey conducted by the Maritime Insights Database.

In addition, it is pointed out by some scholars that a lack of qualified instructors has an impact on the quality of maritime education and training provision. This requires the fostering and professional development of instructors and trainers, and investment in developing the instructors’ competence. Moreover, the EU SkillSea study found that demand for specialized education will require training institutions to invest more in developing knowledge units, thereby increasing the organizational complexity.

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