Substitution of simulator time for sea time


We live in an ever-changing world but is all change appropriate?

What the reporter told us:

It has recently come to my attention that it is the intention of a major flag state, with industry support, to reduce the sea time required by cadets in favour of simulator training. The proposal is to allow 5 days in a full mission bridge simulator to count as 15 days sea time, 10 to count as 30 and 20 to count as 60. It is my professional opinion that this will be of detriment to the industry. In a recent study of serving deck officers, 75%-80% reject this notion. I agree that more simulator training would be good for cadets in developing collision avoidance skills, but this should not be at the expense of time spent on board ship.

I believe that cadets will come out of their cadetships with certificates of competency (CoC’s) of a lesser value because of this. The CoC is being seriously devalued and the flag is becoming a flag of convenience because of decisions that the flag state administrator is making regarding exemptions and dispensations such as this. Sea time during a cadetship is incredibly important as it allows cadets to get hands on whilst under the tuition of a professional and serving mariner, be that an officer or crew member. Life at sea cannot be replicated in a simulator. The whole of shipboard life including bridge watchkeeping, cargo work, dealing with crew and shore personnel is incredibly important in a cadet’s development and these are skills that will be used throughout their careers.

Further Dialogue:

CHIRP clarified the source for the figures quoted in the initial report with the reporter and was directed to a formal document in the public domain which does clearly state the figures quoted.

Correspondence was also held with one of the organisations that had been involved in the initial consultation surrounding this proposal. They informed CHIRP that while the figures quoted by the reporter were correct, the wording of the formal document had been poorly chosen and that the flag state had no intention of pursuing that level of substitution. The actual proposal discussed was for a maximum of 30 days remission of sea time for any cadet that completed a Bridge Watchkeeping Simulator Course consisting of 2 separate one-week modules with each stand-alone module attracting 15 days remission of sea time. The scheme would run for a 12-month trial period and was not compulsory. At the end of the trial period the scheme would be reviewed, and the results and other data assessed before a decision was taken regarding rolling out the scheme to all cadets training under the flag state.

CHIRP comment:

After considerable discussion by our Maritime Advisory Board members, the following points were noted.

  • There was unanimous support for more quality simulator time, at the appropriate stage of a cadet’s training. Cadets enjoy the simulator experience and relate to the technology.
  • Full mission bridge simulators are very good regarding introduction of the Collision Regulations, ship handling, ECDIS and ENC’s etc., but they do not simulate ‘life’ at sea. Simulator training sessions need to be more realistic, rather than “one on one” situations. Life at sea, both the good and bad aspects, needs to be experienced for cadets to develop a full appreciation of their future role and responsibilities as an officer.
  • Most week-long courses consist of 5 days actual instruction, it is difficult to see the rationale for 1 day simulator training equating to 3 days sea time.
  • Whilst accepting that standards of training on board ship do vary greatly, do not underestimate or undermine the hard work of the many officers and crew who give unstintingly of their time and knowledge to help train and mentor the next generation of seafarers.
  • Quality simulators are expensive and there are limited numbers available at present. For the proposed scheme to be effective there would need to be large investment, and if that sort of investment is going to be made then go further and incorporate integrated virtual reality.
  • The concept that the scheme is not compulsory is an issue. If the scheme is beneficial then it should be compulsory, so all cadets benefit from it. If only the trial is optional, then the results available at the end of the trial will not be representative, instead reflecting the effect on a small group of cadets who probably already work for companies whose training regimes are already more effective.
  • Finally, it was highlighted that this is currently a proposal and will be reviewed following the trial. Watch this space.


Report Ends ……….