COVID-19 disruptive effects on seafarer safety training

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a radical shake-up of seafarer safety training and certification as governments and course providers turn to online platforms and implement social distancing measures to maintain programmes. Will this radical new learning landscape last?

COVID-19 has played havoc with seafarer safety training and certification and lockdowns in different countries, coupled with some easing of lockdown restrictions in July, have forced a radical rethink of how course content is delivered.

Seafarers are normally required to travel to maritime colleges to undertake written and oral examinations or undergo practical training or simulator sessions. However, traditional modes of learning have suffered because training facilities have shutdown and closed borders are preventing crew from disembarking.

David Appleton, professional and technical officer at seafarer union Nautilus International, told SAS the changes are not over. “There are many ways that the crisis has and will affect training. Travel restrictions meant cadets were stuck at home, unable to join ships to gain their required sea time, those already at sea are stuck on board for extended periods on a ship that may no longer be a suitable training environment, for example, if it is laid up.”

The International Maritime Organization has yet to issue specific guidance on personnel training and certification, but it has encouraged flag states to take a “pragmatic and practical approach” to the extension of seafarer certificates.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in the United Kingdom introduced measures to digitally revalidate certificates of competency (CoC) when seafarers were unable to disembark, and issue temporary CoCs to those who had completed requirements but remained on board.

Courses such as foundation degree, higher national certificate/diploma, or Scottish professional diploma were permitted to transfer to online delivery mechanisms, as many maritime college buildings have closed. “Earlier this year we gave maritime colleges the opportunity to present us with alternative measures for how they would meet the competency requirement of the STCW [Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers] Convention, either using online, blended learning, or other methods of training,” said Ajit Jacob, chief examiner at the MCA.

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