Shipping should expect a quantum leap in the adoption of technology over the next 10 years as ships are built with more automation and IT systems. Anglo-Eastern Univan Group managing director for quality, health, safety, training and the environment Pradeep Chawla said shipowners and managers should be training seafarers to use the technology that is expected to be developed.
Capt Chawla said greater adoption of IT in shipping will help the sector to attract a new generation of high-tech seafarers, but could alienate the older generation. “I expect there will be a quantum leap in the next 10 years in the technology that goes into ships,” he said at the Transas conference in Malta in March. “We will need to train people now for what is coming 10 years from now.”
This will change the way ships operate in the long term. But in the short term, shipmanagers need to continue focusing on the human element of shipping. “We realise that technology is coming into maritime and that there will be new skills in the next 10 years,” Capt Chawla commented. “Seafarers will need to be more adaptable as they will need to speak not just to superintendents but also to fleet operators in decision support centres.”
Seafarers will need different types of training to help them adjust to new operations and technologies. However, existing training standards do not meet the requirements for a future where technology plays a greater role. Capt Chawla thinks shipowners and managers are adopting technology quicker than regulators can adapt the rules. For this reason he wants IMO to update the international convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) to respond to these technology changes.
IMO has the ability to react by publishing updates to its conventions, which it did during the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW) in February (see page 46). The industry should remember that the standards cover all seafarers, regardless of the technology that is on the ships on which they sail, and they form a base level of competence that individual companies should build on, said Capt Chawla. His own company employs 27,000 seafarers and has multiple simulator training centres worldwide for teaching skills and teamwork over and above STCW requirements.
He wants to see more engagement between IMO and ship operators to update STCW to cover the latest technology and incorporate more human factor training requirements. Capt Chawla is a keen advocate of training and simulator-based assessment in order to reduce maritime accidents. He made the point that 90 to 95 per cent of accidents were due to human error, such as the lack of situational awareness, taking shortcuts because of commercial pressures, or poor financial thinking on the part of management.
“To prevent accidents, we start by looking at the human factors,” Capt Chawla said. He added that this should involve changing seafarers’ perception of safety and individual behaviour, improving teamwork and explaining how people should operate in different situations.
One area that Anglo-Eastern has improved is bridge operations during port approaches. Capt Chawla said the shipmanager encourages the use of ecdis and other bridge electronics during these approaches, but cuts out any unnecessary calls to the bridge during times of complex ship handling. He highlighted the fact that deck officers have multiple factors to consider during port approaches, such as other ships, port infrastructure, tugs and pilots.
“Seafarers are considering safety every day. They factor all this in and study the circumstances,” he said, adding that decision support centres could assist captains during port approaches. But it will be captains and their officers on the ships that will need to take the decisions and will need the correct training to do so.