We have had navigational simulators available for the best part of half a century. They began with relatively simple devices for training and testing competence with radars, but have graduated over the years to replicate pretty well every task in bridge, engine or cargo control room. They are proven and enable experience to be gained safely and fast. They are available in every conceivable form, with programs available to enable a team to practice taking a big ship into an unfamiliar port , conducting ship to ship or monobuoy cargo transfer operations or even “rehearsing” a difficult or safety critical maintenance task. They deliver utterly authentic teaching, better every year as computer generated imagery and even “motion” can be provided.

So why doesn’t the maritime industry employ simulators in the same way as they are used in aviation, for the regular testing and assessing of competence? It seems strange that candidates for statutory examinations are still assessed by “conversation” with their examiner, rather than being tested with actual situations provided in an appropriate simulator situation. It has been suggested often enough, over the years whenever STCW convention updates are considered, but for some reason it always seems to be rejected. There aren’t enough simulators available. There are not enough examiners who could do the job. It’s too expensive for many parts of the world where such equipment is insufficiently available.

These were reasonable “excuses” once, but do they still hold water today? There are ship operators who are already using simulators to assess their officers’ abilities for promotion, or to regularly ensure that their senior officers remain up to their tasks. Never mind the revalidation process, this is to be undertaken every three years and all those who have been so tested , according to Captain Kevin Slade, formerly of Northern Marine Management, have found it a useful and positive experience.

He was speaking at the World Maritime University’s recent Maritime Education and Training Symposium, while a fellow speaker was AMSA’s Brad Groves, who said it was essential to “keep up with the technology” and that it was time simulators were used more. Meanwhile Captain Steve Clinch of the UK MAIB has entered the debate and suggested that a 5 yearly simulator assessment would be a positive development. Might the times be changing?

Author: Michael Grey                        Source: