Training – the hidden cost of environmental regulation

Last week in our comment on the Muros grounding caused by incorrect use of ECDIS, ShipInsight highlighted that the UK MAIB has investigated several incidents involving a similar lack of familiarity with the ECDIS equipment.

All of the events occurred before the STCW rules were changed to make both generic and type-specific training with ECDIS training mandatory from the beginning of this year.

Training is essential whenever any new technology is introduced onboard ships and especially so when the equipment has unique characteristics of its own that are not covered in generic training. ECDIS is just one of several new technologies that have been mandated on ships in recent years and unlike most others is not connected with environmental regulations.

Very soon, most of the ships now afloat will be required to fit ballast water treatment systems. So far, most of the discussion around the cost of such systems has been on the capital outlay. Some of the systems introduce new concepts that will be unfamiliar to crew but will probably be quite simple to learn. Nevertheless there will be a training cost attached to all new systems and potentially all seafarers will eventually need to have become familiar with many different types of systems.

Then there is the impact of the 2020 Global sulphur cap reduction. Here again the talk has been more about the cost of paying for distillates or fitting scrubbers and even of conversion to LNG. For some owners with dual-fuel ready ships the extra cost has likely been counted as installing a gas fuel storage system. There will be no training costs associated with a simple fuel switch but if a scrubber is installed there will be some training needed.

It is the LNG option which will be the most expensive and very likely not only the cost of training has been overlooked but so too has the effect on seafarer shortages. The IGF Code has introduced a requirement for training that goes beyond what might be expected since all personnel will have to have basic training equivalent to that for gas carrier crews and many of the officers and crew will need additional advanced training.

Almost certainly there will be a shortage of appropriately trained and certificated officers and crew if there is a big switch to LNG to meet shipping’s environmental obligations. Looking slightly further ahead there will surely be even more requirements if and when hydrogen and other gases are looked on as providing a solution to environmental demands.

That is something that needs to be addressed well before any decision is made to switch to LNG or other exotic fuels and at the very least when ordering new ships. Another factor to consider is that as well as the cost of training, in the early years at least, qualified crew will be able to demand premium wages. The costs could be considerably more than initial calculations may have suggested.