Written by Captain Reuben Lanfranco, Maritime Consultant & Marine Surveyor
April 15, 2021
Over the past few years there has been much debate about the use of computer-based training (CBT) and online training courses for the maritime industry.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a drastic change in the way in which we conduct training. Many crew members have been restricted in movement due to the current situation, oftentimes having to extend their contract and remain on board for much longer than expected, while others are unable to embark due to lockdown and travel restrictions and need to work from home. Maritime colleges and training centres are not fully operational since social distancing requirements need to be met and group gatherings need to be controlled.
While the concept of online training has been discussed at length in major international maritime fora, it remains the prerogative of the individual flag states to authorise its use especially for the requirement of the STCW Convention and Code. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, very few countries had approved the use of online training and CBT for maritime-related courses, but this situation rapidly changed as the pandemic evolved.
The enhancement of online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others have created a virtual environment for online conferencing and training. Many maritime training colleges and centres have been using these platforms, providing for most of the academic content of courses they deliver. This, though, has created some concern about skill-based training requirements which may be difficult to impart online.
This last year has led to major changes in the way we deliver training, and we have also seen an improvement in simulation software approved for marine use. The advantage of online training is that it distinguishes no location and can therefore be delivered to anyone with a reliable internet connection, no matter whether that person is on board a vessel or ashore.
Another benefit is that one does not need to set up a venue to receive and accommodate the participants because both trainer and participant are normally interacting from the comfort of their home, office, or vessel. The cost of delivery is also therefore drastically reduced since one does not need to look at those additional expenses such as travel or commuting.
The use of recorded webinars also allows participants to review the recordings at their own convenience, and feedback can very easily be exchanged with the speakers or trainers involved. Enhanced training videos and other software can be embedded in the training programme to provide for that ‘real life’ experience, which would cater for part of the skill-based requirement.