Concern about recent marine accidents has focused attention on the use of simulators for the training, performance evaluation, and licensing assessment of mariners. Over the past decade, labor unions, private companies, and the U.S. government have made substantial investments worldwide in the development and use of simulator-based training facilities. This report by the Committee on Ship-Bridge Simulation Training is an assessment of the role of ship-bridge simulation in the professional development of U.S. deck officers (masters, chief mates, and mates), cadets, and marine pilots.
MARINERS AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Mariners' duties and responsibilities are dictated by their work environment. Deck officers must be generalists, operating in the sometimes highly stressful and demanding environment of automated ships, short turnaround times in port, smaller crew sizes, and the self-contained independence of long sea voyages. Deck officers must be knowledgeable in skills ranging from watchkeeping, navigation, cargo handling, and radar to medical care, life saving, maritime law, and ship's business.
Marine pilots are also highly skilled generalists who function independently in an environment that requires them to understand the operation of ship-bridge equipment and maneuvering capabilities of a wide range of vessels and to be able to safely maneuver through shallow and restricted waters. Pilots must also be knowledgeable in local customs and working practices of ports and terminal operations.
Historically, the professional development of mariners has been based on a strong tradition of on-the-job learning. Graduate mariners supplement training garnered in the structured academic environment with colleague-assisted training and occasional structured training courses at union or other instructional facilities. Mariners who become marine pilots advance through apprenticeship programs.
OVERVIEW OF THE USE OF SIMULATORS
There is a wide range of marine simulators in use worldwide. The capabilities of computer-based simulators range from radar only to full-scale ship-bridge simulators capable of simulating a 360-degree view. Marine simulators can simulate a range of vessels in scenarios of real of generic operating conditions (e.g., ports and harbor). Computer-based simulators can be used to train mariners in a number of skills, from rules of the road and emergency procedures to bridge team and bridge resource management.
Physical scale-model, or manned-model, simulators are scale models of specific vessels that effectively simulate ship motion and handling in fast time. These models are especially effective for teaching shiphandling and maneuvering skills.
As a training tool, simulators have a number of significant advantages:
- Simulators can be used to train regardless of weather.
- Instructors can terminate training scenarios at any time.
- Training scenarios can be repeated.
- Training scenarios can be recorded and played back.
- Training takes place in a "safe" environment.
In Applying simulation to training requirements, it is important to consider differences among simulators, that is, the different levels of simulator component capabilities. A high degree of realism is not always required for effective learning transfer. Often it is not necessary to use the most sophisticated simulator to meet all training objectives. However, the levels of realism and accuracy required should match the training objectives.
Ship-bridge simulators are different from commercial air carrier simulators. Commercial air carrier simulators are airframe-specific and are subject to industrywide standards. The simulators are validated and periodically revalidated (every four months) by the National Simulator Evaluation Program.
There are no industrywide validation programs for marine simulators. Ship-bridge simulators usually simulate a variety of real or generic ship types—from coastwise tugs to very large crude carriers.
Simulators are also used for mariner performance evaluation. These evaluations are usually informal and take the form of debriefings during the course of training. Occasionally, however, simulators are use for more structured
evaluations. A number of the cadet training programs at maritime academies use them extensively for performance evaluation.
Currently, simulators are used in two U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) licensing programs to:
- demonstrate knowledge of fundamentals of radar in qualifying radar observer certification and
- receive the unlimited master's license by meeting standard prerequisites and successfully completing the training course offered at the STAR Center facility in Florida.
SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The Committee on Ship-Bridge Simulation Training found that simulation can become an effective training tool to improve mariner professional competence. It also found that simulation offers the USCG licensing program a mechanism for determining whether mariners are competent on a much more comprehensive basis than through its current written multiple-choice examinations. However, for the USCG to use simulation effectively for training and licensing, it is important that a stronger research base be developed and that the agency address issues of standardization and validation discussed in this report. The following is a summary of the committee's conclusions and recommendations. The complete text is included in Chapter 8.
Use of Simulators for Training
Setting Standards for Simulator-Based Training Courses
Mariner training is strongly task-oriented. Many of the current approaches to training and professional development in the marine industry have been based on a tradition of "modeling the expert" and on-the-job training. Training programs using simulation often insert simulation into existing courses rather than customizing the course to ensure that the simulation contributes effectively to the course training objectives. One result has been a lack of standardization in simulator-based courses.
The Committee on Ship-Bridge Simulation Training believes that the greatest benefits of simulation will be realized with a more structured approach to the use of simulation for training and with the standardization of some of the key courses of instruction. Systematic application of the instructional design process offers a strong model for the structuring of new courses and the continuous improvement of existing courses.
The committee also found that the instructor can be more important than the simulation in meeting training objectives. It is the instructor's responsibility to
ensure that all training objectives are met. Instructors who train on simulators should themselves be trained and certified to ensure that the simulator-based training courses meet the training objectives.
Recommendation 1: Marine simulation should be used in conjunction with other training methodologies during routine training, including cadet training at the maritime academies, for the development and qualification of professional mariner knowledge and skills.
Recommendation 2: The U.S. Coast Guard should oversee and guide the establishment of nationally applied standards for all simulator-based training courses within its jurisdiction. Standards development should include consultation with, and perhaps use of, outside expertise available in existing advisory committees, technical groups, forums, or special oversight boards. If the USCG relies on outside bodies, the process should be open and include interdisciplinary consultation with professional marine, trade, labor, and management organizations; federal advisory committees; professional marine pilot organization; and marine educators, including state and federal maritime academies. Whatever process the USCG chooses to use should be acceptable from a regulatory standpoint.
Recommendation 3: The U.S. licensing authorities should require that instructors of simulator-based training courses used for formal licensing assessment, licensing renewal, and training for required certifications (i.e., liquid natural gas carrier watchstander, offshore oil port mooring masters) be professionally competent with respect to relevant nautical expertise, the licensing process, and training methods. The professional qualifications of the lead instructor should be at least the same as the highest qualification for which trainees are being trained or examined. Criteria and standards for instructor qualification should be developed and procedures set in place for certifying and periodically recertifying instructors who conduct training.
Use of Simulators to Promote Continuing Professional Development
The Committee on Ship-Bridge Simulation Training found that computer-based ship-bridge simulators and manned models can be effective in the development and renewal of deck officers and marine pilot skills in a number of significant areas including bridge team management and bridge resource management, shiphandling, docking and undocking evolutions, bridge watchkeeping, rules of the road, and emergency procedures. Although current computer-based simulators are limited in their ability to simulate ships' maneuvering trajectories in shallow and restricted waterways and ship-to-ship interactions—capabilities important to pilot shiphandling training—computer-based simulator training in areas such as bridge team management and bridge resource management can be of value to pilots.
The increase in the number of foreign-flag vessels in U.S. waters has given simulator-based training a global dimension. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is currently making extensive revisions to its Standards for Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping guidelines, including guidance for use of simulators. To effectively reduce marine accidents in U.S. waters it will be important that international training standards be developed.
Recommendation 4: Marine pilotage authorities and companies retaining pilot services should encourage marine pilots, docking masters, and mooring masters who have not participated in an accredited ship-bridge simulator or manned-model course to do so as an element of continuing professional development. Marine pilot organizations, including the American Pilots' Association and state commissions, boards, and associations, should, in cooperation with companies retaining pilot services, establish programs to implement this recommendation.
Recommendation 5: Use of simulators for professional development should be implemented on an international scale to enhance the professional development of all mariners who operate vessels entering U.S. waters and to reduce the potential for accidents. The USCG should advocate this strategy in its representation of marine safety interests to the IMO and other appropriate international bodies.
Special-task or microcomputer simulators could be used effectively in mariner training. A limitation affecting the widespread use of microcomputers is the limited availability of desktop simulations and interactive courseware.
Recommendation 6: The U.S. Department of Transportation should selectively sponsor development of interactive courseware with embedded simulations that would facilitate the understanding of information and concepts that are difficult or costly to convey by conventional means.
Use of Simulators in the USCG Licensing Program
Need for a Plan to Use Simulators Effectively
Most USCG license examinations test knowledge through structured, objective, multiple-choice examinations. These examinations are, in many cases, dated. The use of simulation offers an effective mechanism for accessing not only the candidate's knowledge but also his or her ability to apply that knowledge, to prioritize tasks, and to perform several tasks simultaneously, all functions routinely required aboard ship. For the USCG to effectively use simulation for testing of skills, abilities, and multiple tasks, the agency needs an understanding of the nature of those tasks and a detailed plan for effective, structured assessment. It
is therefore important that the USCG develop a framework for integrating simulation into its marine licensing program before it undertakes more extensive use of simulation in marine licensing.
The quality of the license assessors is another issue the USCG should carefully consider. Assessors should be trained and certified. In cases where a simulator-based training course is integrated into the licensing process, the instructor and assessor must be two different people.
The USCG will need to factor into its plans sufficient time to not only allow new simulator facilities to come on-line but also to allow sufficient time for the appropriate bodies to develop standards and establish a process for validation of simulators and simulations (Recommendations 14 and 15)
Recommendation 7: The U.S. Coast Guard should develop a detailed plan to restructure its marine licensing program to incorporate simulation into the program and to use simulation as a basis other structured assessments. In development of the plan, the USCG should consult with all parties of interest.
Recommendation 8: Licensing authorities should require that license assessors of simulator-based licensing examinations be professionally competent with respect to relevant nautical expertise, the licensing process, and assessment methods. Assessors should hold a marine license at least equal to the highest qualification for which the candidate is being tested or should be a recognized expert in a specialized skill being trained. Specific criteria and standards for assessor qualification should be developed, and procedures should be set in place for certifying and periodically recertifying assessors who conduct licensing assessments with simulators.
Substitution of Simulator Training for Required Sea Service
The USCG currently grants remission of required sea time in some ratio of sea time to training time for successful completion of specified simulator-based training courses. The current program has evolved ad hoc rather than through systematic technical analysis. Cadets, for example, are granted remission of sea time in a 6 to 1 ratio for the successful completion of a watchstanding simulator-based training course. There was no research basis for the use of that ratio. The USCG has stated that it wishes to expand its remission policy as a mechanism for encouraging the use of simulation-based training.
The committee on Ship-Bridge Simulation Training concluded that, in some cases, remission of sea time has the potential to compromise mariner competency and safety and should therefore be approached cautiously. The USCG presently grants remission for license upgrades for approved full-mission simulator courses. Although there are areas where remission can be very effective (e.g.,cadet training and license renewals), there are areas where the committee concluded that it is not currently appropriate (e.g., upgrade to second mate,chief mate, or master, or for any type of marine pilot's license).
To implement a safe, effective program, the USCG should include the planning of sea-time remission in its framework for restructuring its licensing program. The standards for simulator-based training courses should be considered in the development of a plan for allowing substitution of simulator-based training for required sea time in the limited cases where the committee finds such remission to be suitable.
Recommendation 9: The U.S. Coast Guard should grant remission of sea time for the third mate's license for graduates of an accredited, professional development program that includes bridge watchkeeping simulation. The ratio of simulator time to sea time should be determined on a course-by-course basis and should depend on the quality of the learning experience as it applies to prospective third mates, including the degree to which the learning transfers to actual operations. Research to establish a more formalized basis for these determinations should be implemented without delay (Recommendation 16).
Recommendation 10: The U.S. Coast Guard should establish standards for the use of marine simulation as an alternative to sea service for recency requirements for license renewal of deck officers and vessel operators. Remission of sea time should be granted for renewal purposes to individuals who have successfully completed an accredited and USCG-approved simulator-based training course designed for this purpose. The course should be of sufficient length and depth and include rules-of-the-road training, bridge team and bridge resource management, and passage planning. The ratio of simulator time to sea time should be determined on a course-by-course basis and should depend on the quality of the overall learning experience insofar as this learning transfers effectively to actual operations.
Use of Simulator-Based Training During License Renewal
Active mariners can benefit from structured training at each license level, and inactive mariners can refresh vital skills in a relatively short time through simulator-based training. In both cases, simulation can play an important role by ensuring that applicants demonstrate some level of baseline competence at the time of license renewal.
Current operating practices in many segments of the U.S. merchant marine do not routinely provide adequate opportunities for chief mates to acquire essential shiphandling and bridge team and bridge resource management experience and expertise, much less proficiency. Development of these skills is very important. Simulation provides a safe, structured environment for learning these skills prior to receipt of a master's license and service as master.
Recommendation 11: Deck officers and licensed operators of oceangoing and coastwise vessels who can demonstrate recent shipboard or related experience, but
who have not completed an accredited simulator-based training course, should be encouraged to complete an accredited simulator-based bridge resource or bridge team management course before their license renewal. Those seeking to renew licenses who cannot demonstrate recent shipboard experience should be required to complete such a course before returning to sea service under that license.
Recommendation 12: Chief mates should be required to complete an accredited hands-on shiphandling course prior to their first assignment as masters. The license should be endorsed to certify that training has been successfully completed. Either a manned-model or a computer-based, accredited shiphandling simulation course should be established as the norm for this training.
Recommendation 13: Currently serving masters who have not completed an accredited shiphandling simulation course should be required to do so prior to their next license renewal. In addition, masters should be encouraged to attend an accredited shiphandling simulator-based training course periodically thereafter.
Validation of Simulations and Simulators
The accuracy and fidelity of ship-bridge simulators can vary significantly from facility to facility. These differences derive from the differences among original mathematical models used to develop the simulations and from facility operator modifications to models after installation of the simulations. A number of facilities use in-house staff to develop their own models.
There are no industrywide simulator or simulation standards. Simulations are initially validated by the manufacturer, then by the facility operator through subjective tests. Often, facility operators periodically modify simulation models after the initial validation. This process of continually modifying simulation models can result in inconsistent training programs, as successive classes may be conducted with different simulations. These problems are of particular concern when a simulation is used for licensing or training related to remission of sea time.
To address these concerns, simulators and simulations should be validated, all modifications should be documented and the simulation revalidated. The extent to which accuracy of a simulation needs to be validated will depend on the proposed use of the simulation.
Recommendation 14: The U.S. Coast Guard should enlist the assistance of standards-setting and other interested organizations and sponsor and support a structured process for validating and revalidating simulators, simulations, and assessment processes. In developing these standards, all parties of interest should be consulted.
Recommendation 15: Staff at simulator facilities should have objective knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the hydrodynamic models on which their simulations are based. Modifications of the coefficients to address real or
perceived deficiencies should only be performed based on competent oversight by a multidisciplinary team. Procedures should be developed to ensure that such changes are documented and that notification is given to the original vendors of the data and to the cognizant authorities.
Research Needed to Improve Mariner Training, Licensing, and Professional Development
Development of a Quantifiable Basis for Assessing Simulator Effectiveness
In most cases, the application of simulators for training and licensing has been supported by anecdotal information. The exact nature of the equivalency of simulation to real life, however, has not been systematically investigated for several reasons:
- the existing job-task analyses are not adequate for this purpose,
- there has been no systematic application of job-task analyses in either marine training or licensing for this purpose, and
- no systematic program currently exists to collect and analyze performance data for past participants in simulations.
The work of the mariner is task-oriented. The early research on task analysis was largely unused and is dated. To be able to effectively apply simulator technology, it is important to systematically measure and analyze simulator effectiveness for training and to develop a mechanism to use simulators to improve the effectiveness of the transfer of skills and knowledge.
Recommendation 16: The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration, in consultation with maritime educators, the marine industry, and the piloting profession, should sponsor a cooperative research program to establish a quantifiable basis for measuring the effectiveness of simulator-based training.
Simulation of the Physical Environment
Ship control and navigation are visually supported tasks, especially in confined areas. Learning visual skills is an important process in the development of proficiency in control and navigation. In many simulators, the visual simulations are provided with systems that have limited capabilities to represent the relative brightness of lights. The result can be distortion of distance perceptions as an observer moves around the simulated bridge.
The impact on training effectiveness of ship operational characteristics—such as vibration, sound, and physical movement of the bridge in roll, heave, and pitch—has not been verified and should be researched before applying these systems to simulators.
Recommendation 17: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the maritime industry should assess the impact on training effectiveness of apparent limitations in simulator visual systems. If these limitations have a negative impact on training effectiveness, DOT should encourage development of visual systems that overcome or minimize the negative aspects of current systems.
Recommendation 18: The U.S. Department of Transportation should undertake structured assessments of the need for simulation of vibration, sound, and physical movement. These assessments should include consideration of the possibly differential value of these various sources of information in different types of training scenarios.
Manned models are an effective training device for illustrating and emphasizing the principles of shiphandling. They are particularly effective in providing hands-on ship maneuvering in confined waters, including berthing, unberthing, and channel work. Manned models can simulate more realistic representations of bank effects, shallow water, and ship-to-ship interactions than electronic, computer-driven ship-bridge simulators.
Recent closure of the U.S. Navy's manned-model facility at Little Creek, Virginia, which was one of only four such facilities in the world, represents the loss to the United States of a unique training resource. Although the contribution of this facility to operational safety of commercial vessels was a side benefit, it nevertheless filled a gap in U.S. - based training resources for the development of merchant mariners.
Recommendation 19: Because there are no manned-model training facilities in the United States, and because of the usefulness of these models in familiarizing pilots and others with important aspects of shiphandling, DOT should study the feasibility of establishing or re-establishing a manned-model shiphandling training facility in the United States, to be operated on a user-fee basis.
Vessel Maneuvering Behavior
The ability of a simulator to closely replicate a ship's maneuvering trajectory is a strong measure of the usefulness and value of the simulator for training and licensing. At present, computer-based simulation of a ship's maneuvering trajectory is well developed in normal deep-water, open-ocean cases. In cases involving shallow or restricted waterways, ship-to-ship interactions, and extreme maneuvers, fidelity may be significantly reduced.
Recommendation 20: The American Towing Tank Conference (ATTC) and International Towing Tank Conference (ITTC) should be advised of the needs to
extend the database of ship maneuvering coefficients. ATTC and ITTC should be encouraged to investigate possible development of procedures that would allow the exploitation of existing proprietary data without source disclosure. Where data are not available from these sources, funds should be allocated to perform new tests, especially in very shallow water and in close proximity to channel boundaries or other vessels.
Improvement in Mathematical Models
The current practice for developing mathematical models for simulators is based on extrapolation of hydrodynamic coefficients from towing-tank tests for a restricted set of hull shapes. This practice may result in a degradation of the validity of the information when applied to conditions of loading and trim or to ships that differ from the model tests. In addition, the simulation of towed vessels is severely limited by the absences of systematic test data.
The conduct of full-scale real-ship experiments would significantly advance the state of practice in the development of mathematical models. These experiments could supplement the limited information available for shallow and restricted water, slow speed, and reverse propeller operational information. Vessels currently part of the U.S. Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Fleet and some vessels in the Navy's Military Sealift Command fleet represent a possible resource for data to validate and improve mathematical models. In general, computational methods for determining the pertinent hydrodynamic parameters based on theories offer the possibility of more general and accurate simulations, particularly for ship operations in restricted waters and ship-to-ship interactions.
Recommendation 21: The U.S. Department of Transportation should develop standards for the simulation of ship maneuvering. The fidelity of the models should be validated through a structured, objective process. Standard models should be selected and tested in towing tanks and the results compared to selected full-scale real-ship trials of the same ships to provide benchmark data for validation and testing of simulators.
Recommendation 22: The U.S. Department of Transportation should initiate research to integrate computational hydrodynamic analysis with simulators in real time.
Finding Simulator-Based Training and Licensing
Specialized training on manned-model and computer-based simulators is not affordable to most individual mariners. The improvements in mariner competence and professional development possible through the application of simulator-based training are discussed throughout this report. Professional development is a shared responsibility among mariners, shipping companies, unions,
port authorities and facility operators, and others. Each of these groups, as well as the general public, benefits from improved mariner competency and safety.
It is important therefore, that any decision to mandate training for licensing or renewal include full consideration of options and mechanisms available to ensure that the training is available and affordable to all effected mariners.
Recommendation 23: The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Maritime Administration should assess the options for funding simulator-based training and licensing.