News Article 24/08/2010

Maritime Education: Rises To The Challenge By Robert C. Spicer

The Maritime Executive, Jul/Aug 2010, p.40-43

TODAY’S MARINERS ARE INFLUENCED FAR MORE BY rapid changes in regulations and the rise of instant communications than they are by the force of the sea upon which they sail. New environmental laws, changing technology, management of diverse cultures, computer program competency, and human resource compliance are some of the many challenges that demand levels of knowledge and skill greater than previously required.

The modern mariner must be technically skilled and a competent business manager to boot. Captain Robert J. Becker, Academic Business Development Manager at the Maritime Institute for Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS) in Linthicum, Maryland, observed that today's mariner is "technology savvy" and reliant upon computer-based technology but also believes we have an opportunity to refresh basic leadership and seamanship skills just in case technology should fail. He is developing a course to do just that.

Current State of the Industry
So what is the current state of education and training in the marine industry? The answer varies from one sector to another. According to Tina L. Woehling, Program Manager at the Global Maritime and Transportation School (GMATS) in Kings Point, New York, the economic situation for many companies and individuals is strained: "Mariners know that jobs are scarce and they must stay on top of the latest training and credentials while companies are scrutinizing their budgets and looking for ways to improve the bottom line."

There are a number of schools around the world which prepare workers for a maritime career. In the US ., two well-known, institutions are the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point and the State University of New York Maritime College (SUNY) at Fort Schuyler, New York. Graduates serve their country by pursuing careers in the armed services or the maritime industry. In Asia, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore launched its Bachelor of Science program in Maritime Studies in 2004 to meet the needs of that region. The curriculum focuses on maritime science and technology with the goal of establishing Singapore as a center of excellence for all things maritime.

Dr. Nilanjan Sen, Director of Nanyang Executive Education, said, "The University is recognized for its research excellence, and industry relevance and is Singapore's first business school to achieve both AACSB International and EQUIS accreditations."

The executive program couples strong industry links with persona1 development opportunities. The Berkeley-Nanyang Advanced Management Program, a joint venture with the Haas School of
Business at the University of California, provides exposure to western markets and Asia's prominent role in them.

The ultimate value of learning goes beyond the intrinsic satisfaction enjoyed by the individual: It improves worker performance and helps organizations achieve higher levels of productivity.

Captain Becker of MITAGS has routinely observed that when students apply new learning with practice in MITAG simulators, higher levels of skills are developed. Of course, the value of education has always been important to business leaders. Captain Michalis Hatzimanolis, Marketing Manager for Ulysses Hellas in Greece, posits that better education may actually yield 10 percent more productivity.

Moreover, in an industry surrounded by risks, we need more education, says GMATS' Woehling: "The value of education in the marine marketplace is of paramount importance. People's lives, livelihoods, the environment and cargo are at stake. The risks are high and prevention or risk mitigation can be accomplished by proper education and training."

On the other side of the coin, Captain Milind Karkhanis, Vice President of Videotel Training Services in London, has a perspective that may be unique to only a few industries: "In many sectors, education is the foundation to build a career, but it may not be necessary in the marine industry. This is because the nature of the industry is so specific." His point is well-taken: Training and practical experience have always been fundamental elements of the maritime experience.

Industry Sectors and Current Projects
To properly serve all sectors of the industry, Videotel provides maritime training through a network of over 300 videos, courses and software solutions. Captain Amy Beavers of Maritime Professional Training (MPT) said her group is currently researching how to better meet the needs of its students through online training as well as numerous upgrades to its Fort Lauderdale campus so that MPT can "offer new programs and revise existing courses as regulations change." Rick Ferraro, Client Training Manager for Lloyd's Register Americas, has a primary focus on training middle management: "Our focus is on practical approaches to solving problems and addressing current needs ." Mr. Ferraro's projects include training in the application of and conformance to evolving quality standards. He believes that "Training has the potential to give those in the industry the means to work smarter, improve productivity, and apply best practices."

Bridget Hogan, Director of Publishing and Marketing at The Nautical Institute in London, emphasizes the importance of soft skills as her team works on projects regarding the human element, operational best practices, and continuous professional development. In the coming decade she believes the industry will put greater emphasis on the application of best practices that are less prescriptive and more interpretive, and that the skills to apply such best practices will demand greater education.

GMATS' Woehling is working with American Military University/ American Public University System (APUS) to develop various courses for students and is partnering with Old Dominion University in Virginia on a strategic partnership to expand educational opportunities with innovative projects like the Engineering Crew and the Crew Advancement programs for mariners. Irvin Varkonyi, Marketing Manager and Adjunct Professor of Transportation and Logistics at APUS, said that the trend toward cooperation between various educational institutions is likely to continue as online education grows in the marketplace. APUS has various partnerships with maritime schools like GMATS and currently offers a degree program in Transportation and Logistics that can be taken online.

Industry Trends
In some instances equipment manufacturers have taken a more active role in training. For example, ABB Azipod offers ship operators training to effectively use podded propulsion systems. Eric W. Schreiber, Senior Manager of ABB Marine Solutions, said that the use of ABB training simulators has reduced the time it takes to maneuver ships with podded propulsion by up to 30 minutes. The results can be seen in fuel savings for owners and thrust optimization on the pods. The course has been developed in cooperation with Aboa Mare Maritime Institute and simulator manufacturer Transas to improve azipod vessel simulation modeling.

Another trend is the use of existing equipment in innovative ways. MITAGS' Becker and his team have used their simulators for operational research projects and established simulation scenarios for six LNG terminals. MITAGS invites the pilots from those areas to use the simulators and then creates operational procedures for their clients: The program has exceeded expectations.
Currently, there is a trend toward online training and education versus the traditional classroom setting when possible.

For courses that can be delivered online to self-directed learners ,significant benefits are available: flexible scheduling, eliminationof travel costs, and the optimization of vacation time.  Maritime administrators are now more open to the concept of online training that they had been previously and the growth of Web-based learning has been an important driver toward improved mariner education. A blended approach may be the optimal learning model, and the best system will be one that is approached from an individual perspective. In coming years, the focus will be on a combination of competency – knowledge and training, which will form equal parts of a continuous professional development system.

"We will also see alternative ways to transmit knowledge to learners," said Lloyd's Register's Ferraro, who was recently introduced to a concept utilizing an application that delivered bursts of training on hand-held devices such as smart phones and PDAs. "The concept allows the student to review a small snippet of training and digest it whenever and wherever the individual happens to be," he said. Against the backdrop of broadening regulatory requirements, companies are looking for best practices that they can use to cope with their evolving challenges. Smart phones and PDAs may be one answer.

The technologically savvy mariner will rely more and more on software devices and programs to aid in decision making.The use of performance support software also results in the most cost-effective solution, Captain Hatzimanolis added that a new book addressing the topic will soon be published by Dimitri Lyras, advisor to the Ulysses Hellas board, Roger Schank, and Elliot Solloway of the University of Michigan, an authority on mobile devices and learning systems. Thus the educated mariner will continue to be supported by the latest technical tools and the training to go with them.


Robert Spicer, who holds a Chief Engineer’s license, is studying for his Doctor of Education degree in organizational learning.