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Human factor competencies for the future mariner

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Capt. Pradeep Chawla
Managing Director, QHSE & Training
Anglo-Eastern Ship Management Ltd.

Abstract: This paper discusses the changes that are taking place in the maritime industry and
their effects on the daily life of the seafarers. It further discusses the human factor
competencies that will be essential for the future mariner.

The last two decades have been extremely fast paced with respect to technology influencing
every walk of life.
Internet, Google, Facebook, Linkedin, smartphones, WhatsApp etc. and their effects on the way
we communicate, interact and learn are well-known.
Maritime industry has also made great strides in the use of technology and the daily life on board
ship has changed significantly from what it was in the 80’s and 90’s.
Here is a quick review of some of the changes that have taken place already or are coming in the
next decade or two and my opinion on the challenges associated with them.

1. ECDIS is a revolutionary change and there is no doubt that it has improved safety of
navigation. The full benefits of ECDIS will be realized as e-navigation strategies evolve.
The discussions of type specific familiarization for ECDIS, have made it obvious that non-
standardized interfaces present a challenge in the processing of information by the
navigator and this is an aspect that needs to be carefully analyzed and addressed as we
move forward with e-navigation.

2. Electronic engines controlled through advanced computer systems bring about similar
issues for the engineers. However, presently with the market domination of only two
brands, this has not led to the issue being experienced in a similar manner as ECDIS. The
issue of processing, analyzing and controlling data from a single screen is a dramatic
change from ‘touching’, “feeling” and ‘hearing’ sounds from the machinery.

3. Position fixing with GPS, combined with ECDIS with radar overlays, has revolutionized the
bridge watch-keeping practices.
Over-reliability on GPS is a constant discussion amongst older navigators and the younger
ones who have never witnessed a GPS failure. The younger navigators question the
practices of manual / radar fixes when they seem to be obtaining continuous accurate
positions from 3 or 4 GPS sets on board. The debate on the concept of “cross-checking"
of vessel’s position is taking a whole new meaning with the advent of combined GPS/
GLONASS receivers coupled with other satellite positioning systems on the horizon.

4. Environmental regulations are evolving and developing rapidly. Regulations for
measurement of harmful gases are inked. Ballast water treatment plants are being fitted.
Emission regulations are being rapidly tightened. Belief among the world citizens on taking
the steps to protect the world for the future generations is often found wanting.
The shipping industry is under pressure and efforts to educate the seafarers in their role
in this important field are urgent and important.

5. E-Navigation, as presently envisaged by IMO is a dynamic target and the evolution brings
about various challenges of collection, integration and analysis of data.
The way mariners will interact with e-navigation presents a number of challenges that
need to be carefully studied and risk assessed as new equipment and systems are
designed and developed. Alarm management will be a critical feature here.

6. Besides the social media byproducts of the internet that have become an integral part of our
lives, the introduction of cheaper communication, has resulted in increased volume of data
exchange being handled by vessels.
There are additional tasks to manage the various software issues. The increased use of
electronics has come with the problem of frequent hardware related breakdowns. There are
several cases of Radar, ECDIS and other electronic equipment breaking down, thereby
putting extra stress and workload on the mariners who have to wait till a suitable port for
repairs. There is a need for standardization and having strict equipment quality monitoring
standards at manufacturing and installation stages so that they are better able to withstand
marine conditions and have better “mean time between failures”.
The time spent on handling the increased enquiries and requests from people ashore is a
significant factor that brings about challenges in designing onboard tasks and
responsibilities to prevent any neglect of the core tasks of navigation and care of the cargo.

7. Maritime Labour Convention, which was a much needed legislation for rights of seafarers,
has focused the attention of companies and port states on the issue of rest hours; however
it has not yet focused the attention of the port-states and regulations on the cascading
effects on safety of navigation; especially in areas of long pilotages.
The effects on traditional expectation of Master’s presence on the bridge and the laws
about the responsibilities of the pilots have not been sufficiently deliberated over prior to
entering into force of the MLC.
This brings about testing times for the mariners, who often are the ‘scapegoats’ of
regulatory decisions when things go wrong. The fundamental issue is the manning scales
on board that regulators find impossible to get consensus between various countries.

8. The traditional hierarchy on board and the management styles of ‘My ship, My law’ have
become obsolete in modern days. Whistle blowing, MLC complaint procedures and
transparent systems have brought about a change in the way Masters and companies
manage the workforce.

9. The amalgamation of ship and shore systems is inevitable and an inherent part of e-
navigation. However it opens up fresher challenges of cyber-security. Possibility of
terrorists taking over a ship remotely are being speculated.
The mariners will soon need to understand and appreciate the dangers associated with
cyber hacking.

10. Making sense out of the ‘big data’ is becoming the buzz word in all industries.
Maritime industry is a traditional industry and usually not the first to adopt the latest
The advantages of business intelligence through the use of big data is enormous and it
would be good if the industry does not delay investing in this new field.
Besides the areas discussed above, the mariners are also faced with changes being
bought about by increasing number of regulations.

Solas 74 was 158 pages.      Solas today is 294 pages
Marpol 78 was 265 pages.    Marpol today is 447 pages
STCW 78 was 243 pages.     STCW 2010 is 356 pages
And we of course have the Maritime Labour Convention (110 pages)
Ballast Water Convention (38 pages), Anti Fouling Convention (45 pages)
This is without counting regional regulations like OP90, Vessel Response Plans, SOPEP
etc etc.
A rough estimate is that a Master needs to be familiar with at least 4500 pages including
company’s SMS and owner’s and charterer’s instructions.
So what competencies should our future super-mariners need?
In my opinion the most critical human factor competencies that are needed in the future
1. Ability to process large amounts of data from various man-machine interfaces:
Standardized and well thought of user interfaces will be a critical part in the design of
future shipboard equipment. Insufficient research or attention to this could endanger
the progress of adoption of new equipment and systems.

Accident case studies show that the majority of ‘situational awareness’ errors were
due to a failure to monitor or observe data from the various equipment due to either
overload of information or distractions.

2. Ability to focus on critical issues
Overload of information can cause the danger of missing out on the critical issues.
This issue is already being experienced on the modern day bridge. The plethora of
alarms, and displays sometimes distracts the navigator from keeping a proper lookout
by sight and other available means.

3. Ability to work with remote teams
Teamwork on board is well understood at sea. However with the closer integration of
ship and shore systems, a large number of tasks will be done by people ashore. Vessel
traffic services will have a larger role to play. Teams ashore will analyze engine data
and advise the shipboard teams.
The large mix of shipboard crew nationalities and multi-national shore teams will bring
about new challenges in communications and teamwork.

4. Ability to be assertive
The interaction with a larger number of shore based teams will require a clear
emphasis on Masters over-riding authority enshrined in the ISM code.
With the lower costs of communications and e-mail systems, Masters are already
reporting a feeling of being ‘controlled’ too closely by shore staff.
While the laws make the Master responsible for all accidents, the reality is that Masters
feel that their authority (w.r.t. day to day running of the vessel) is being ‘taken away’.

5. Ability to understand the limitations and recognize changes of automation
Significant improvements are expected in automation of shipboard systems. Other
industries have recognized that automation leads to complacency, thereby resulting in
slower response in case of emergencies related to failure of automation. Other
industries already talk of ‘Automation Complacency’ and ‘Automation Traps’.

6. Ability to manage change
The pace of change of technology and regulations in all industries has never been
faster. We see the challenges in adopting change in our daily lives. ‘Instagram’ and
‘Snapchat’ are not needed by the people in their 50’s, however for a teenager they are
basic necessities of daily life.
A significant number of seafarers and managers ashore are experiencing challenges
with adapting to ECDIS or accepting the inevitable irrelevance of celestial navigation
to a young officer.

7. Ability to learn continuously
The human race is discovering new knowledge faster than ever before. It is no longer
possible for any professional to be considered ‘competent’ without constantly keeping
abreast and subsequently adapting to these changes.

8. Ability to cope with increased stress
The shorter turnaround in ports, faster speeds of transit, larger sizes of vessels, stricter
financial constraints, extremely low manning levels, criminalization of seafarers and
various other factors have changed life on board to a high-stress job.
Social media is a wonderful way of keeping touch with the family but it also has an
effect on rest hours and it brings the problems of the family closer on board.
The high stress levels amongst seafarers and the effects on their health is not being
fully recognized and appreciated by regulators and industry leaders. A lot more
research is needed on the topic of stress affecting seafarers.

9. Ability to communicate effectively
The ship-shore and ship-port interface is becoming more complex due to various
factors like port security (without the port taking any moral or financial responsibility
for a stowaway boarding a vessel), terminal regulations and increased pressure on
profits in all parts of the industry.
The role of the Master to effectively deal with charterers, terminals, port state officials,
oil major inspectors and the multitude of agencies that now come on board the ship
has become more critical than ever before.

10. Ability to be a leader
In addition to the Master and Chief Engineer of the future retaining their traditional
skills of managing their shipboard teams, He / she will also need to learn and adapt to
various new skills of organizing, motivating, negotiating, running meetings, public
relations and time management.
The seafarer of the future will need to be tech-savvy, adaptable, analytical and rational
manager, who will be able to do a lot more with better technology and shore based
Or perhaps, he will be sitting ashore monitoring drone ships!

Various companies are already tackling these issues through their recruitment and
training programs. Psychometric testing in some form has been adopted by many
companies to try and identify the behavioral competencies needed for the future

Training requirements can only keep on increasing with the increased regulations.
Blended learning, Outcome Based Education and ‘On the job training’ will take on a
greater significance in the future.

Our industry, like others, is going through a transition and debate between the
believers of the traditional ‘good old ways’ and the futurists who are looking at
technology and modern human performance management theories to get ready for
the future.
But, there is no doubt that focusing on the human factor competencies is critical for
progress in our industry.
The maritime industry has only recently started looking at the human factor
competencies. One of the most significant amendments of the Manila Convention
(STCW 2010) was to incorporate competencies for leadership, teamwork and
managerial skills.
Even the name of the IMO’s sub-committee on “Standards of Training and
Watchkeeeping (STW) has changed to “Human Element, Training and Watchkeping
(HTW)” in 2014

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16 July 2024
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