Industry leaders to set standards for crew of tomorrow

Ocean robot ALR1500 being raised from Loch Ness after a commissioning trial

Next-generation maritime training expert SeaBot XR is teaming up with the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC), Royal Navy, and other stakeholders, to identify the necessary skills and competencies for the emerging Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS) sector.

The Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group will develop the apprenticeship route for remote and autonomous maritime operations both above and below the surface. Huw Gullick, Managing Director of NOC Innovations and Associate Director of Strategic Business Development, said, “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with SeaBot XR and other leading organisations in this area. Developing a world-leading sub-sea operating and piloting apprenticeship training scheme is key to building a pipeline for highly skilled technicians for use across many industries.”

Leigh Storey, Associate Director National Marine Facilities at the NOC, added, “Combing the NOCs expertise in sub-sea robotics and autonomous technology innovation with other key organisations will ensure that the apprenticeship scheme will offer best-in-class training and provide a sound foundation for the skills required to move to next generation net-zero marine technology and transport and work vehicles.”

The autonomous vessel movement was gaining traction prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and has been further spurred on since. Autonomous and remotely operated vessels will sail with few or no crew onboard, but their introduction will not reduce the requirement for highly maritime trained personnel. It will, however, dramatically alter the necessary competencies needed to monitor and control such vessels.

Gordon Meadow, CEO of SeaBot XR says: “Through the adoption of MASS we’re witnessing a skills paradigm-shift towards the connected mariner. However, there is a lack of awareness about the skills gap in the maritime industry, that will need to be filled as the implementation of autonomous and remote vessel technology is expanded.”

Commodore Andy Cree Royal Navy says: “The Royal Navy through its lead of the Solent Maritime Enterprise Zone, has a sharp focus on identifying and addressing the future skills gaps associated with new and emergent maritime technologies.

“We are therefore delighted to be part of this Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group developing employer-led apprenticeship standards in autonomous and remote vessel operations which will pave the way for a skilled maritime workforce of the future.”

SeaBot XR chairs the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group in Autonomous and Remote Vessel Operations, whose members include employers and industry stakeholders. In addition to the Royal Navy, the list of employers includes geo-data specialist Fugro, the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity. The insurer Shipowners P&I Club and others will also participate in the group.

Each will be working to facilitate the embedding of skills requirements in MASS, yielding a workforce capable of the same informed decision-making capability as onboard crew today. The trailblazer is being supported through the development process by the regulator for apprenticeship quality, the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education.

Meadow said: “We will see a continued shift in how onboard and offboard navigational and engineering functions are performed. It’s a very exciting time.

“A new apprenticeship in Autonomous and Remote Vessel Operations will provide new talent and even greater, multidisciplined, highly-trained workforce, with the know-how to safely monitor, control and deal with situations remotely.”

Initially, the group will identify the basic skills and competencies an individual will require to safely navigate, control and manage small- to medium-sized vessels, and provide them with suitable certification. It will analyse emerging requirements and define various occupational and training standards. As the industry matures, the group will blend this training, building upon basic skills, with more advanced knowledge routes and specialisms that will be required for the operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships.

Meadow commented: “We hope that the work carried out by the group will eventually form a blueprint for maritime regulation and government legislation.”