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Let’s Get Technical

How Innovative Crew Training Is Reducing the #1 Cause of Marine Accidents By: Captain Bill Anderson, Founder & Director, SeaSentries, LLC / Former Director, Maritime Institute of Technology & Graduates Studies - Pacific Maritime Institute West Coast Campus (MITAGS-PMI) & Director, NSAP® and John Sifling, Principal, Broad Reach Maritime, LLC


n January 13th, 2012, the Costa Concordia, with 4,229 persons on board, grounded on Scole Rocks, near Giglio Island in good weather. Thirtytwo persons lost their lives as a result of this tragic incident. Although the factors contributing to the casualty were numerous, the human element, and related training shortcomings, played a prominent role. Some examples of human error cited in the Italian Government’s investigation report include: poor navigational practices, excessive speed in light of prevailing conditions, flawed bridge resource management, and confusion/inattention amongst bridge crew. The investigation concluded that the human element was the root cause of the casualty and cited “poor proficiency by key crew members.” The first of three prominent recommendations stemming from the investigation was to “…mitigate the human contribution factor with education, training and technology…” (our emphasis).1 The human element has often been attributed to as many as 80 percent of all marine casualties. However, there is a great deal of complexity in determining such a figure, as it relies on both direct consequences (such as those listed above), as well as indirect (for example, poor design). Nevertheless, an enlightening report by the UK government’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency in 2010 noted that 65 percent of maritime insurance claims “were for incidents in which humans played the dominant role” and that 60 percent of incidents involving “the serious or total loss of vessels over 500gt…were due to human error.”2 Given the data, the 80 percent figure is likely close to the mark. In 2017, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report analyzing 41 prominent marine accidents investigated by the agency dating to mid-2015, including the October 2015 sinking of the cargo vessel El Faro and subsequent loss of 33 crew members. Of the 11 Lessons Learned 18 FIRST QUARTER 2019 | TRAVEL & CRUISE

in the report, eight had training implications including: Heavy-Weather Operations, Fatigue, Bridge Resource Management, Cell Phones and Distraction, Anchoring in High Water and Strong Currents, Safety Management Systems, Monitoring Rudder Order Response, and Vessel Abandonment. There are multiple citations of various training failures noted in the NTSB report, and the conclusion emphasizes that “the real action to address them must come from vessel owners, operators, and crews.”3 With these facts in mind, this article will focus on how an effective company training program can be deployed to mitigate human error, the most significant cause of marine casualties. Among the unique challenges cruise lines face in providing crew member training include: comparatively large numbers of crew (as compared to other sectors of the marine industry), geographic diversity of crewmembers’ countries of residence, contracts of up to nine months or more, periodic internet connectivity issues on board ships, and the demands of non-safety related duties requiring a high standards of customer service. In light of these challenges, many cruise lines have shifted toward a Blended Learning strategy. In a Blended Learning program, traditional face-to-face (classroom) instruction is combined with self-paced online instruction to leverage the most effective elements of each. A 2010 meta-analysis completed by the U.S. Department of Education looking at 1,000 learning studies concluded that: “Instruction combining online and face-toface elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction than did purely online instruction.” This underscores two important points. First, that well-designed online training is, on average, more effective than training delivered in a traditional classroom setting. This is good news for cruise lines, which make extensive use of

online learning due to the many logistical challenges previously noted. In addition to flexibility, the study also noted: “The effectiveness of online learning approaches appear quite broad across different content and learner types.” This is also good news, considering the high diversity of cruise industry crew culture, education, economic background, and other factors. The second point revealed by study is that Blended Learning, involving both in person and online instruction, proved to be the best overall approach, across any discipline. In person instruction and job shadowing provide firsthand direct view of duties and responsibilities, which is effective for consolidating knowledge and skills, while classroom and online courses provide training consistency and standardization. To cite an example, over the course of seven years, Marine Learning Systems Inc teamed with BC Ferries on a transition to a Blended Learning approach, in conjunction with a comprehensive program to improve safety by instilling a “just culture.” A just culture—in contrast to one that is blame oriented—treats incidents such as accidents and near misses as learning opportunities. While employees are not blamed for honest accidents, they are held accountable for behaviors that violate law, regulation or company rules (for example, reporting to work intoxicated). As a result of the program, time loss injuries dropped from 360 to 150, days lost due to injury declined from 12,000 to under 4,000, and insurance claims cost dropped from $3.5M to $800K. An important aspect of any training program is the ability to measure/assess results. In the maritime mode, assessments are typically focused on mariner competence and compliance with local or internationally accepted standards of skill performance. Assessments may be conducted at maritime academies/training institutes using simulation or other testing tools in order to replicate the “live” working envi-

Profile for Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association

Travel & Cruise 1st Quarter 2019