The Nautical Insitute: Supporting seafarers through turbulent times

With new technologies, fuels and regulations among the many changes on the horizon for the passenger shipping industry, Alex Smith asks Captain John Lloyd of The Nautical Institute how the organisation is helping seafarers prepare for the future

The Nautical Insitute: Supporting seafarers through turbulent times

Ibrahim Boran/Unsplash

By Alex Smith |

The maritime industry is constantly changing and evolving. Navigators have to keep up to date with the latest systems and technologies, monitor new regulatory changes and manage vast silos of information, all of which are time-consuming tasks that are essential to ensure safe and efficient shipping operations. 

One organisation helping to support seafarers as they manage the demands of the industry is The Nautical Institute. The international non-governmental organisation represents the interests of its members around the world, aiming to improve standards in seafaring with effective education, regulation and cooperation. 

“As we work with our members and our industry stakeholders, we take on the challenges faced by maritime professionals, including decarbonisation; automation and autonomy; and artificial intelligence and its impact on the workforce,” says Captain John Lloyd, CEO of The Nautical Institute. “We address these areas from the perspective of the mariner, providing opportunities for training and professional development solutions to ensure safer and more effective maritime operations.” 

The Nautical Institute also represents maritime professionals at the International Maritime Organization, where it holds consultative status. This status allows The Nautical Institute to contribute the opinions of its members while the IMO is shaping key regulations for the global shipping industry that impact more than three million seafarers employed to work on the international merchant fleet.  

One important piece of regulation currently under review by the IMO is The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (SCTW), which governs the competence standards and certification requirements for the world’s seafarers. The Nautical Institute is looking to its members to establish their priorities for possible updates to the convention, including any necessary preparation for new technologies. 

“Given that this review has just started, we are carrying out a survey of our members so we can understand their priorities,” says Lloyd. “Early indications are that they want to maximise the learning impact while cadets are doing their at-sea training. We often hear that 12 months at sea is a bare minimum for cadets but that more can be done to improve the effectiveness of this time. Another key area of interest is making the best use of simulation solutions and identifying the opportunities offered by new technology such as cloud-based simulation and virtual and augmented technologies. There are also concerns about how seafarers can best keep up with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced sensors.” 

The Nautical Institute will also target several key initiatives of its own over the course of 2024. For example, the organisation is working to develop a training curriculum for the safe implementation of the next generation of fuels being introduced across the shipping industry. 

“We simply cannot allow the industry to adopt alternative fuels, which bring significant hazards and require new operational procedures, without providing proper training,” says Lloyd. “We are actively working with industry stakeholders to develop a practical but comprehensive ‘Green Curriculum’. This work is primarily focused on LNG, liquefied petroleum gas, methanol and ammonia and exploring how to achieve the competencies to handle them safely. However, the institute has also published informative articles and webinars on fuels such as nuclear and wind power.” 

As well as its work on fuels, Lloyd also sees a wider role for The Nautical Institute in promoting sustainability throughout the industry. 

“We are dedicated to working towards the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals,” he says. “As an international professional body, sharing ideas and good practices around operational issues with a focus on the human element is the best way we can contribute. While other stakeholders are justifiably advancing engineering solutions at an accelerated rate, The Nautical Institute is focused on identifying operational issues associated with the new fuel options and finding ways of solving them, both on ships and onshore.” 

With new developments in fuel, design and technology on the horizon, what it means to be a seafarer is changing rapidly. Managing a modern vessel requires a range of different skills that might place new demands on the crew than in the past. 

“Today’s seafarers are no less talented, and today’s ships are no less demanding of their skills than in days gone by,” says Lloyd. “What has changed is the diminishing size of crew and increasing size of ships and the level of technology onboard. This establishes a new volume and complexity of work that the seafarers of yesterday would struggle  
to recognise.” 

The changes to the role of a seafarer could therefore have an impact on them beyond just the need to train in new skills. It’s important that the human effects of new technology are considered and prepared for, says Lloyd. 

“Maritime professionals both at sea and ashore will not only need to understand how technology works and how to use it, but also how that technology will affect their own lives,” he says. “A recent webinar we conducted in association with the World Maritime University and the International Transport Workers Federation explored both the new skill levels that maritime professionals will need and the human impact that may ensue, such as the effect of social media at sea and what they identified as ‘techno-stress’ – which we all feel when contemporary technology refuses to respond in the way we expect! 

The institute has a technical committee that keeps these issues under review but also a specialist Automation Technology Advisory Group that focuses on this area in particular. We are pleased to have Nautical Institute members in this group that are on the cutting edge of these technologies and how they are being used.” 

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of  Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe  for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox.  

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