Niche Markets

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

13 July 2016


Marine academies have historically provided the majority of all seafarer training supplemented for specialist training – such as fire fighting for example – by other dedicated training establishments. Things such as fire-fighting, life and rescue boat manoeuvring and handling and the like are not subjects easily taught in a classroom or on a simulator. Flag states and the academies will normally have details of the specialist facilities that are available and recognised. Fire-fighting training is often conducted by shore-based fire brigades but the courses take into account the unique circumstances of a ship at sea aided by input from industry bodies and advice from incident investigations. At MSC 96 in May this year, Interferry submitted best practice guidance on ferry safety for ro-ro passenger ships for consideration. The document which was drafted following a number of fires on the ro-ro deck of passenger ferries called for seven key changes to industry practice two of which related to training. These were that training and drills should emphasise the importance of a rapid response team proceeding directly to the scene of a reported smoke/fire with fire extinguishers and without stopping to dress in firefighting gear and that training should also emphasise the importance of adopting a defensive firefighting posture after the initial response – the paramount requirement being rapid establishment of containment boundaries on all sides of the fire such as by means of a deluge system. The guidance was noted by the meeting and while no changes to SOLAS or STCW will occur at present, the advice on training is available to operators wishing to go beyond the requirements of SOLAS and to training establishments as well. When it comes to machinery, OEMs are often the best placed to offer training but many courses are conducted as part of the sales contract rather than as structured training courses that can be attended by individuals wishing to further their knowledge. Major equipment makers may have links with training facilities and this is especially true in the area of marine engines.

OEM Training

Equipment makers of all descriptions have a vested interest in training users of equipment supplied either to a new vessel or as retrofit. Within the next few years many ships will be obliged to install equipment that is new to the industry although some pioneering owners have already taken the plunge and fitted ballast treatment systems and exhaust gas cleaning systems or scrubbers. While it is the cost of systems that will be uppermost in shipowners minds when they come to install them, any necessary training requirements must also be given some consideration. Ballast treatment systems employ many technologies and crew moving between ships may find that the equipment is very different from anything that they have come across previously. The pumping aspect of systems will not be an issue as this will be similar to conventional ballast handling and most trained engineers should have little difficulty in understanding the methodology used in systems but performance testing and maintenance will require some instruction. Also the limitations with regard to temperature and salinity of systems relying on electrochemical technology must be understood if ships are not to be found wanting by PSC inspectors. Scrubbers are also quite simple mechanically being little more than a combination of gas and fluid handling technology but here again there are chemical reactions to be understood and water chemistry to be controlled if the system is to function correctly. Engines are arguably the most sophisticated equipment found on ships so it is right that leading makers have invested heavily in training provision. MAN Diesel & Turbo’s PrimeServ training services has 13 centres around the globe that offer training on a variety of the company’s products. Although the main training is targeted at engineers, special courses are also run for office and management staff to allow a technical insight that can assist them in supporting sea staff and superintendents. The Wärtsilä Land and Sea Academy is a similar set-up with 10 training centres around the globe where product specific and other training services are provided. Another engine maker – Rolls-Royce – has a technology and training centre in Ålesund, Norway in the same building as the Offshore Simulator Centre. This facility is not restricted to engines but also includes some of the manufacturer’s diverse range of other products from propellers to winches.

Bunkering oil & gas

As has already been mentioned, the IMO has moved this year to include training for gas fuelled vessels in the STCW Code. Surprisingly, given the pollution potential and hazards of conventional oil fuels there is in fact nothing specifically in STCW covering them. Obviously some knowledge is imparted during engineer training and by engine manufacturers but some within the industry feel there is a lack of structured training with regard to bunkers especially as the diverse range of fuels is extending with normal and low/no sulphur variants as well as new fuels such as methanol, ethane and hydrogen all appearing. Earlier this year, the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) announced it was co-operating with UK-based South Shields Marine School at South Tyneside College, to develop a course unit on bunkering essentials for merchant navy cadets and engineering officers taking their Class one and Class two certificates of competency. The course aims to explain the fundamentals of the bunker industry, the key regulations affecting shipping today, along with the latest industry challenges and developments. If successful the course could be taken up by other colleges and maritime training centres. IBIA is also planning to develop further training programmes for operators designed to increase on-board competency in handling bunkering and fuel switching. Handling LNG fuel and other low-flashpoint fuels on ships will formally become part of maritime training standards early next year when rules for specific equipment training and operations on LNG-fuelled ships will come into force. Under the rules, crew will have to be involved in a minimum of three bunkering operations although these can be simulated operations. ClassNK and Transas signed a memorandum of understanding in June 2014 to co-operate in marine simulation training and to develop courses.

Shore staff training

So far this guide has concentrated on seafarer training but it should not be forgotten that a successful ship operation organisation relies as much on shore staff as on officers and crew employed on the ships. There are at least three areas where there is a mandatory requirement under international rules for specific roles that would require training in order to be carried out properly. The first of these is the ISM Code which requires a designated person ashore (DPA) to be the link between the ships at sea and the executive management of the company ashore. The IMO document MSC-MEPC.7/Circ.6 ‘Guidance on the qualifications, training and experience necessary for undertaking the role of the designated person under the provision of the ISM code’ provides some detail on the qualifications and training needed for staff undertaking the role. While it is considered best practice that the DPA should have seagoing experience this is not a requirement under the ISM regulations. The guidance states that the Designated Person should have a minimum of formal education as follows:
  • qualifications from a tertiary institution recognized by the Administration or by the recognized organization, within a relevant field of management, engineering or physical science, or
  • qualifications and seagoing experience as a certified ship officer pursuant to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), 1978, as amended, or
  • other formal education combined with not less than three years practical senior level experience in ship management operations.
With regard to the training of the DPA, the circular says the ‘Designated Person should have undergone training relating to safety management elements in compliance with the requirements of the ISM Code, particularly with regard to:
  • knowledge and understanding of the ISM Code;
  • mandatory rules and regulations;
  • applicable codes, guidelines and standards as appropriate;
  • assessment techniques of examining, questioning, evaluating and reporting;
  • technical or operational aspects of safety management;
  • appropriate knowledge of shipping and shipboard operations;
  • participation in at least one marine-related management system audit; and
  • effective communications with shipboard staff and senior management.
As can be noted from the qualification/education and training guidelines, it is unlikely that any of the three categories listed as qualifying a person for the DPA role will have been exposed to the list of subjects for which training is recommended. Similar requirements exist for the Company Security Officer (CSO), Ship Security Officer (SSO) and other ship and shore staff tasked with security duties under the International Ship and Port Facilities Security (ISPS) Code. The recommended training requirements are contained in Part B of the ISPS Code. Again, training in these duties is offered both by specialist training providers and also by Recognised Organisations. Many of the ROs are classification societies. The list of training requirements for the CSO contained in the ISPS Code is much longer than that for the DPA in the ISM circular although in practice the ISM Code probably dictates a greater breadth of knowledge required. Another Code which places training requirements for shore staff is the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) Code which came into effect globally in 2008 but which was enforced by some administrations well before this date. Over the years there have been many incidents involving fires and explosions caused by hazardous goods especially on container ships. Under the IMDG Code, personnel accepting bookings for hazardous goods must have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the practical requirements of the Code in relation to classification, packaging, marking, labelling, documentation, container and vehicle packing and vessel stowage. Hazardous goods training usually involves a minimum two day course covering the essentials of the Code but continual updating of knowledge is necessary as new chemicals and hazards are identified.