This is the second article on the accelerating pace of change in the naval and commercial maritime learning communities. The first article in this series focused on the merging and “cross pollination” of learning technologies in the two maritime sectors. This article departs from that editorial track and provides vital insights from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the imperative to advance learning throughout that commercial seafaring community and offers a glance at the technologies being brought to bear in this sector’s learning activities.

Imperatives to Upend Legacy Maritime Learning     

The urgent requirements for the maritime industry to upend and transform its learning efforts has an uncanny similarity to the military, commercial aviation and other high-risk communities followed by Halldale Group.

One intersection of requirements among these communities is the need to recruit new personnel, and effectively and efficiently train them to operate in an increasingly challenging technical environment.       

Natasha Brown, spokesperson at IMO, provided one attention-getting insight on this line of effort, noting the shipping industry requires an adequate supply of seafarers to operate the 60,000 ships that are travelling on the world’s oceans at any given time. To add some context beyond this number of ships, about 20-30 people typically comprise the crew on one prominent class of vessels plying the world’s seas, container ships.  

The organization media official continued, “We need to encourage new generations of young people to take up seafaring as a career, as well as address the gender imbalance in maritime education and seafaring training. The basis for seafarer training is the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, which is currently undergoing a comprehensive review to ensure the competencies within the Convention and the Code are adapted to new technical developments in shipping, environmental protection and climate change.” This review will assess and address any gaps to ensure the revised STCW Convention and Code is fit for purpose in the coming years. Brown continued, “All member states and NGOs in consultative status at IMO (including those representing seafarers and ship operators) are encouraged to participate in this process and provide their experience and expertise.”

One Glimpse of S&T in this Community

Simulation and training industry business development teams take note – from its vantage point, IMO is eyeing artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and other technologies for commercial mariners learning programs.  

Brown acknowledged all these tools can be useful and added IMO aims to integrate new and advancing technologies in its regulatory framework – balancing the benefits derived from new and advancing technologies against safety and security concerns, the impact on the environment and on international trade facilitation, the potential costs to the industry, and their impact on personnel, both on board and ashore. “It is important to explore the ways that technology can assist with training.”

Of immediate relevance, several capabilities have been incorporated in some IMO-run projects already. For example, VR technology has been introduced into IMO's work to help its member states to improve domestic ferry safety. Brown explained, “The aim is to support administrations in training their personnel using VR technology to enhance the knowledge and skills to ensure domestic passenger ship safety. This was introduced under a project was funded by the Republic of Korea [RoK] and delivered with technical and in-kind contribution by the Korea Maritime Transportation Safety Authority (KOMSA).” Going forward, the existing VR scenarios provided by KOMSA may be expanded, with the possibility of additional scenarios being introduced into the VR equipment to extend the training to cover other types of ships (and countries), subject to further consultations with the RoK officials responsible for the bilateral IMO-Republic of Korea partnership.

IMO has also been rolling out an e-learning platform, with access to five of these courses free of charge for any maritime professional. Other courses require pre-authorization to access. These can be accessed through the IMO website or via this link: IMO e-Learning. (Editor’s note: to access IMO e-Learning courses on the LMS platform you need to register for an IMO web account via the IMO website.) Brown further emphasized the course can be paused and re-started at any time. After successfully completing it, participants can download and print a certificate of completion. “Distance learning is key for IMO to meet changing educational needs in the maritime industry. Students and maritime professionals around the world have the chance to boost their understanding of key maritime issues with a series of courses through the IMO e-learning platform.” 


Certification and Role of Maritime Simulators

Much like aviation training devices are certified and approved for training by regulatory authorities, similar strategies are in play in the maritime community.   

IMO’s Brown pointed out certification is the remit and responsibility of national authorities. “Simulators must be approved and certified and operated properly,” – with good reason, as simulator training is a key part of mandatory training under IMO’s STCW Convention. “Indeed, simulators are mandatory for training in the use of radar and automatic radar plotting aids (regulation I/12 and section A-I/12 of the STCW Code).” In a nod to the increasing capabilities training systems may provide in instruction design, it was further noted, “Simulator training may replace in-service training for certain competencies. If conducting in-service training using a simulator, the person training must have appropriate training and experience.”

IMO also sees the value of simulation in specific training - for instance, simulation exercises are proving to be a valuable tool to assist countries and port authorities to prepare for a wide range of potential threats and security situations during maritime security workshops.

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IMO noted the shipping industry requires an adequate supply of seafarers to operate the 60,000 ships (one above) that are travelling on the world’s oceans at any given time. Source/credit: Port of Rotterdam Authority/Kees Torn.

More Community Learning Transformation

In another effort to strengthen maritime community learning, with the Maritime Just Transition Task Force, IMO is engaged in a collaborative project that is setting the framework to equip seafarers with skills as the shipping industry transition to zero emissions. The project is set to develop a training framework to equip seafarers with skills as shipping transitions to zero greenhouse gas emissions. Brown highlighted this project is happening alongside the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code. “IMO Secretariat, along with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), the United Nations Global Compact and the International Labour Organization (ILO) came together to launch the Maritime Just Transition Task Force at COP 26 in 2021. It marks the first global sectoral task force dedicated to a just transition, enabled by the international nature of the maritime industry,” the media spokesperson said and concluded, “The Task Force is leading and coordinating efforts to work with governments, industry, workers and their representatives to ensure a safe and human-centered approach to achieving green shipping.”

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