Everyone in the maritime industry understands the importance of training and training for ECDIS is perhaps the biggest issue surrounding the digital transition.
It’s not for want of discussion – training has rarely been off the agenda over the last few years – and feedback from Admiralty seminars and anecdotal evidence suggests that training remains one of the biggest obstacles to a smooth implementation.
So much so in fact, that eight industry organisations recently issued guidance on ECDIS training that amounted to a wake-up call to owners and operators who might still be of the opinion that this is a box-ticking exercise.
In the third of our series on the nine steps to ECDIS adoption, we spoke to Paul Hailwood about some of the pitfalls. Perhaps surprisingly, his concern is less about the demands that training presents and more on the misconceptions around achieving compliance.
Hailwood says preparations for training should start with the initial risk assessment and an audit of which officers have completed both the IMO generic course and a type specific course. The result, he says, will be a stack of certificates for appraisal and sometimes, some nasty surprises.
“When you start looking at the certificates, what you can get is documents from people who have nothing to do with ECDIS. I worked with a particular company which thought that all its officers had generic training. When we looked at the certificates, 60 per cent were invalid because they were completed at training centres which were not accredited by the flag state. The training courses had not been approved by the maritime authority so they were effectively worthless.”
Some companies are investing heavily in Computer-Based Training (CBT) but this too comes with caveats:
“The flag state’s position might be that they accept CBT on the proviso that there is an on-board training programme, which has also incorporated the safety management system,” he explains. “You’ve got to be very careful what you’re reading into it and what’s acceptable.”
Not uncommon is for officers to complete generic training, which through no fault of their own, gives them a certificate that doesn’t stand up to on-board inspection. The pitfalls of type specific training are no different, with an often yawning gap between what a company will assume and what is guaranteed by the manufacturer.
Officers will need to show that they are trained to use a specific piece of equipment. Likewise, a training facility offering a course on that equipment will need to demonstrate that the manufacturer recognises the training provider.
“The type training can be done in situ or a company can use CBT and could have a certificate saying they have type training for that system and that version of the software,” he explains. “It can look very black and white, but I have sent some of those certificates to the manufacturers and the reply can be a formal letter, saying the training provider has no connection to them.”
The inference is simple, sail on what you think are valid certificates and if you have an incident, the manufacturer may deny liability.
The good news is that there are plenty of good quality solutions for both generic and type specific training available and Hailwood says that good quality type specific training is becoming easier to access.
For type specific training, options include classroom sessions and ‘train the trainer’ programmes with on-board CBT top-ups available from the leading manufacturers, who are increasingly offering training as part of a broader ECDIS transition package. It’s another case of buyer beware – do not assume that just because you have a certificate it will pass muster.
“Training is everyone’s favourite subject now but it wasn’t always like that,” Hailwood laughs. “I remember the first ECDIS conference in Singapore. I was still at sea then and I took part in the session on training because I sailed on one of these systems and thought I understood its importance. I was the only one that turned up, no one was interested! Now everywhere you go training is the big issue and it’s easy to see why.”
By Neville Smith