UK maritime training adjusts to ‘new normal’

Students practise social distancing as lessons restart at Warsash Maritime Academy. Credit: Warsash Maritime Academy

Nautical training establishments in the UK are resuming as near-to-normal operations as possible while complying with government restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19.

The UK Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) said training had resumed in August and September as planned and each nautical college, along with sponsoring companies, is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the safety of their cadets, staff, and lecturers at their colleges in line with government guidance for social distancing and hygiene. It noted that colleges had opened for Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) short courses, following new guidance relating to social distancing and safety for all delegates and trainers.

“Colleges will have different requirements and needs to consider. Therefore, some cadets are due to return to college campus, some are slowly integrating cadets back to college, and some are continuing with remote learning,” an MNTB representative told SAS.

“As with other organisations, all plans are subject to change in accordance with government guidance, for example with lockdowns.”

The MNTB was keen to point out that since the UK-wide lockdown in March, nautical colleges had continued teaching using digital technology, working with local governments and the country’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) where necessary. It had also been speaking to the MNTB for additional support, and this will continue as long as requested, the MNTB representative said. The representative added, “Experience over the last few months will be used to support future measures and provide the best possible training for cadets.”

On whether STCW examinations would take place as normal, the MNTB pointed out that the MCA is responsible for all STCW and officer of the watch certification. The MCA has released publications about STCW training and seafarer certification, including examinations.

A representative for Warsash Maritime Academy told SAS, “STCW examinations are taking place, but groups will be smaller to ensure social-distancing protocols are adhered to. The MCA has started to conduct oral exams via Microsoft Teams, with some excellent results.”

When asked how COVID-19 has changed the way Warsash delivered its courses, the representative explained, “The impact of COVID-19 has required that we provide a robust online delivery programme.” This included online lectures and tutorials on its virtual learning environment, which allows for multiple ways to access lessons, from seminar discussions and lectures to online quizzes.

“Our staff have continued to solve problems and find different ways of teaching to ensure that our cadets still have an excellent learning experience. For example, staff members have been using high-quality hover cams to demonstrate practical work and show workings to complex problems,” the representative added.

Warsash cadets have been able to live in student accommodation in Southampton throughout lockdown if they chose to, but they are also given the option to stay and study at home.

Meanwhile, Glasgow-based Stream Marine Training (SMT) said it has relaunched its specialist marine and technical training programmes. A representative told SAS that SMT follows official guidelines to keep delegates and staff safe while they are visiting the facilities, with one-way systems clearly marked to navigate safely around the sites and touchless hand-washing stations that are installed at strategic locations. “Social distancing is strictly maintained at all times,” the representative concluded.