Virtual classrooms

How to carry on training during and after the pandemic. The latest instalment in our Shipping in 2030 magazine, published in association with MacGregor.

Training in whatever industry you’re in has gone through profound and rapid change this year, thanks to Covid-19. Almost overnight, people schooled behind bricks and mortar walls were required by lockdown to adjust to taking lessons by gazing at teachers from afar via computer screens.

The topic made for lively debate in a June Splash TV episode featuring the head of Ocean Technologies Group, Manish Singh, and OSM boss, Bjoern Sprotte.

Sprotte, speaking from the shipmanager’s Singapore headquarters, related how when the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11 training came to a “complete standstill” overnight, necessitating a swift adoption of replacement digital tools.

“What we have seen is a more connected learning community which, in my view, really looks ahead instead of having what we call this touch and go,” Sprotte said. Pre-Covid-19, when people came to a training facility, they spent time together then left, he explained, and it tended to be tricky to confirm just how successfully the lessons had been absorbed.

“With this new technology we stay connected, they share learnings and create a self-learning community by that, which is encouraging each other to learn skills and create a sense of belonging. For us that is also a retention mechanism obviously,” Sprotte said.

Singh, who oversees well-known training brands Videotel and Seagull among a host of products in the Ocean Technologies Group, said shipping as a whole was still adapting to the new normal of remote training.

“Adoption of e-learning will accelerate very sharply in the coming months,” Singh predicted.

As part of its approach to training, MacGregor has continuously sought to bring people up to speed with its own technology by using the latest available learning techniques. The approach, which in recent years has involved significant investment in distance learning and other digital training tools, has put the company in good shape to respond to Covid-19 constraints.

“Through theoretical sessions and simulator experience, our training courses allow crew to practice challenging operations, experiment with new techniques, learn from mistakes and experience realistic consequences under the watchful eye of MacGregor trainers,” says Dennis Mol, MacGregor’s vice president for digital and business transformation.

Virtual reality simulator training is designed for both experienced and novice operators. MacGregor’s state-of-the-art immersive simulator provides unique practical training. Crew obtain experience, which in real life would have demanded a huge investment in time and posed considerable risks.

The company simulates a wide variety of offshore cranes with a genuine crane control system and full operator interface. The simulator can be configured to reflect vessel, crane type, placement and a specific load for critical operation rehearsal. It simulates weather, wave direction and height, night and day, depth, load type, component breakdowns, system emergencies and other real world challenges.

MacGregor’s virtual reality training centre features an authentic operating chair for offshore crane simulations and a standing zone, where participants can walk around the simulated ship familiarising themselves with safe operation of the equipment. Refresher training and extra simulator days/hours can be provided for those with previous training.

“Making expert knowledge available to customers through simulation-based training is another information-based capability that enhances crew capabilities, operational safety and equipment reliability,” says Mol.

“Digital twin-based services provide a dynamic environment that enable procedure demonstrations and training to take place, with the ability for this type of training to be undertaken by crew onboard being a planned development,” he adds.

To access the full Shipping in 2030 magazine, click here.


  1. Allow me to express somewhat modified rapture.

    Most owners and managers will simply grab the chance to substitute “on board training” for “shore based training” because it’s much cheaper to tell someone to sit at a computer in their cabin for a few hours in what used to be their own time than it is to send them to a training centre for a week.

    The chance to meet people in the same trade or profession, to use real equipment, to use expensive full mission simulators, is lost, and replaced by the laboratory rat experience of clicking a few buttons in front of a screen, with added loneliness.

    Learning and training are two different things. You learn about Bills of Lading. You are trained to fight fires and use lifeboats so that emotional and muscle memory are involved and you do the right thing without thinking about it.

    Years ago a colleague related the story of how, as a junior engineer on a tanker discharging gasoline, he was in the engine room when he smelled smoke. The next thing he remembered was re-entering the engine room, with the fire team, all suited up. He remembered nothing in between, but in fact he had done everything right – alarm, shut down, flaps, evacuate, CO2. That is training, not education. The Collision Regulations need training, not teaching.

    You can learn on a laptop in the privacy and “comfort”(?) of your own cabin. You cannot be trained that way.

  2. On board training has one glitch.
    There is a huge chance of being trained to make ” shortcuts ” and operate until accident in the comfort of
    ” they have always done like that and nothing happened ” zone.
    Drills on board are often table top excercises or ” immagine there is a progressive flooding in hold no.5. or fire of IMDG container in pos. 130809 ” or the controversial free launch boat drill, where some crew have vague knowledge of nuts and bolts of the system but are extremely savvy on all the spine injuries and deaths during drills.

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