Seafarers’ Virtual reality training, now a reality in the UK

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UK seafarers are acknowledged globally for being the world’s best-trained, particularly where concerning safety practices. The UK Chamber of Shipping, through the Merchant Navy Training Board, helps deliver skilled seafarers to the Merchant Navy and to the whole of the shipping industry.

The Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB), has consistently raised the standards of seafarer training in the UK to ensure that they have the best training by best organisations. To supplement this, the MNTB has undertaken a number of initiatives to modernize the training techniques.

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“These trainings affirm that the seafarers are equipped with skills necessary to compete in a global market, both now and in the future,” Director of Communications, UK Chamber of Shipping, Alastair Clifton, said in an exclusive interview to Sea News.

“Recently, for the first time, the UK shipping industry addressed safety culture in a collaborative manner. The Chamber — with the support of its members, developed a ‘Safety Culture Charter’ to promote and adopt a positive Safety Culture within their member organizations,” added Clifton.

Leading from the top down, the aim of the Charter is to reduce the number of accidents and incidents at sea. Every year, hundreds of seafarers are killed or seriously injured due to the dangerous nature of their work.  Improvements in safety measures will supplement leadership, collective responsibility and collaboration within the industry. This charter is said to be a step forward towards consistent improvement of safety culture across the maritime industry.

Another vital objective that the Chamber is focusing on is technology. It is doing all to propel the tech-penetration down every nerve of the industry.

“The trainings have been apprised so as to develop skills, necessary to embrace the rapidly changing technology. Virtual reality training for seafarers has now become a reality. It is believed that this training is the key to understanding new technologies and its impact of the industry as well as on the training of the seafarers,” said Clifton.

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In this regard, the Chamber welcomed a recent announcement by the Institute for Apprenticeships (IFA). The IFA approved Marine Technical Superintendent Apprenticeship for delivery. The Level-7 Apprenticeship (Postgraduate level) which includes a BEng degree was developed by an employer-led trailblazer group comprised of various UK Chamber of Shipping members and coordinated through the Maritime Super-Skills Project Group based at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU).

Companies from across the UK shipping sector come together to develop this apprenticeship at the top level of education and see apprenticeships being approved all the way from Level 2 to Level 7. Such a range of apprenticeships will provide fantastic opportunities at every level.

“In addition to the on-board training, in case of advancement of technology – particularly autonomy, the module takes into account a very challenging task of training the professionals at the shore. As, the experts put it: The transition from ship to shore can be challenging for a number of reasons and this professional training programme will offer those with an engineering background the opportunity to develop their existing skills giving them the ability to build, lead and manage multifunctional teams onshore,” said Clifton.

Buzz-word Innovation & strategies of the Chamber

Recent launch of Maritime 2050, by the Department for Transport, has outlined a strategy for a future with plenty of opportunities. For this, the industry must lead the world in innovation.

Situations look all green as the launch of Maritime Research and Innovation, where £1 million has been made available to develop these new technologies, is a clear signal of intent of the government.

Industry is also doing its bit. P&O ferries recently announced that from 2022, giant carbon-neutral ferries will sail between Dover and Calais, each carrying 1500 passengers. Innovation is happening, and Mari-UK is a step change to make the UK the best place for the maritime industry to innovate.

‘Equation with the Press’

Shouldering responsibility for all of the Chamber’s media engagement, Clifton said: “Working with journalists on a day-to-day basis is exhilarating and challenging. It is a relationship built on trust and honesty. I will always do my best to help a journalist with a story, put them in touch with relevant people, and assist where I can. I believe by being open, honest and helpful you get the best out of this relationship.”

Combating Climate Change

Climate Change is the biggest challenge in the future. The IMO has set ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050. Recently, the UK Government launched the Clean Maritime Plan. An even more ambitious plan for shipping. It requires all-new ships trading in UK waters, both international and domestic, to be designed with zero-emission capable technologies and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Hopes are high that radical solutions will eventually be found, possibly using a combination of hydrogen or ammonia, and batteries powered from renewable energy sources. But it is very clear that the technologies needed to achieve the 2050 target do not currently exist at a scale or in a form which is commercially viable, especially for long voyages.  So, the need of the hour is to achieve our long-term goals for concerted R&D activity is required. The activity needs hand-holding by the government, the industry, manufacturers, academics and innovators.

(Image Courtesy: Shutterstock)

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The UK shipping: Success stories

  1. The maritime sector is one of the country’s largest — larger than aerospace and automotive sectors.
  2. It contributes over £41bn to the economy of the UK and supports just about 1 million jobs across the UK, with a strong regional spread.
  3. About 95% of all British imports and exports, including 25% of the UK’s energy supply, are moved by sea.

Sea News Feature, September 30