Over the past five years, technology on the bridge has advanced in leaps and bounds – to the point where, for some, there is too much (a topic covered in ‘Look out the bloody windows!’ in issue 146 of The Superyacht Report) and the nature of real seamanship skills is becoming lost. But with the focus largely on technology in the bridge, the industry is yet to look at how it might affect the training side of things.

Bridge simulator training at Royale Oceanic's recent captains' training event

Last month Videotel announced its new form of ‘computer gaming’ training for the maritime industry, with a view to allow mariners to apply their knowledge to specific situations, under realistic time-pressures, but without the damaging effects should something go wrong. Now, the reasons for this type of training fall into similar categories as those for the argument for bridge simulator training, but when ‘computer gaming’ training is making its way into the maritime industry, are we taking things a step too far? And are we relying so much on technology as a facet of the training of superyacht crew to the extent that it becomes ineffectual?

“With the influx of technology affecting both the deck and engine officers’ daily roles and duties, there has been a clear change in the STCW training requirements for seafarers to have an increased number of hours spent in simulators … with examples being the compulsory introduction of ECDIS, High Voltage training and bridge and engine-room management training,” explains Geoff Moore, general manager – yacht management at Royale Oceanic. “The fact is, the world has changed. The day of the electronic chart, PLC and GPS is upon us in the same way children in schools work on computers and not paper anymore. The problem at sea is that when the screen turns itself off or the power goes out, you cannot rely on anyone to help you other than your shipmates.”

"The fact is, the world has changed. The day of the electronic chart, PLC and GPS is upon us."

However, with innovation comes technology, and with increased technology on board it is only sensible the associated training meets this level. “It is essential that officers are put under the stress of a real-life situation when machinery fails, so that they can put into practice the theory that they learn in the classroom and locate and solve the problem, whilst maintaining safe operations throughout. This cannot be tested in real life; out at sea is not the time you want to be learning! Modern simulators are ideal for this purpose and there is a valued argument that there should be mandatory refresher courses conducted to ensure competence and familiarisation are maintained,” adds Moore.

Questioning the level of technology on the bridge is one thing, but if the technology is already there, crew must be trained how to use it, as much as they must be trained how to cope with problems that arise from this technology. “It is not only essential that students are taught how to correctly use the technology they have under their control, but more importantly how to identify and learn what to do when it goes wrong,” concludes Moore.

Technology in this industry isn’t going anywhere, and the training of superyacht crew must take this increased bridge complexity into account when it comes to training. It is absolutely paramount, however, that crew do not become overly reliant on the technology and, perhaps more importantly, their training includes what to do when their reliance on this technology is tested at sea.

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