How is COVID-19 changing ship crew training?

Crew training usually requires travel to a training centre for a week-long classroom programme, often combined with simulator or lab training. But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, social distancing rules first required fewer students in each classroom, and later lockdowns prevented group study altogether. Additionally, as countries closed their borders, attending training courses abroad became impossible.

by Harald Lundestad, Vice President – Training and Advisory, Kongsberg Maritime


At Kongsberg Maritime Training, they quickly realized that if the students could not come to them, they would have to deliver the training to where the students were. The only way to achieve that was to deliver remote training courses online, and to serve their customers they needed to manage this transition quickly. They delivered their first remote course in March 2020, only days after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic.

Thankfully, they had already created a concept using virtual machines to host emulators of different KONGSBERG systems, including their widely used K-Chief or K-Safe control systems. Originally, this had been developed so they could quickly deploy any software version on their classroom computers, but now it allowed students to train on K-Chief or K-Safe scenarios by simply accessing the virtual machine via their web browser.

They also had to rethink their simulator courses, and they teamed up with local training centres to deliver remote, simulation-based training. For example, they now have crew receiving simulator training in Poland or Philippines, with the simulators remotely controlled by their expert instructors in Norway.


Not everyone is happy with this new, remote training reality. They miss the social interaction in the classroom and the excitement of travel to exotic training locations. They cannot wait for the pandemic to be behind and for things to go back to the way they once were.

But Harald believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to rethink how training is delivered and has opened their eyes to new possibilities that will change crew training for good.

In the past, travel and accommodation would often cost more than the course fees. Once employers have realized how much they can save from avoiding expensive travel, he believes they will choose the remote training option whenever they can.

From the training providers’ perspective there are also benefits. As an example, they have seen that they can improve course quality by using their Portuguese-speaking dynamic positioning expert in Aberdeen to deliver remote courses to students in Rio de Janeiro, or their maintenance expert in Szczecin to deliver courses to students in Stavanger. These benefits are well worth retaining for the future.

Going forward, they should not expect for pre-pandemic times to return, but instead see what further opportunities there are for using technology to make crew training more effective, with classroom training reserved for when physical attendance really makes a difference to the learning outcome.

Instructor-led training will continue to be important, but it will increasingly be carried out remotely and complemented with continuous learning through mobile apps and online gamification platforms. Training will also be more tailored to customers’ needs, and delivered on-demand as short “how-to” videos, as and when the knowledge is needed onboard.

One of Harald’s visions is of a ship’s crew, while cruising on the open ocean, putting on their mixed reality goggles. Then they select a training scenario where they practice navigating through a narrow fjord or near an offshore rig. It will look real enough and deck officers can practice their maneuvering skills without any risk to the vessel.

Wouldn’t that be amazing?

This article is shared by KONGSBERG MARITIME. Kongsberg  offers three options for remote learning and qualification: Video conferencing and virtual machines allow in-depth, hands-on training to be safely delivered, maintaining skills and continuing development Remote Training, e-Learning and K-CAT. These combine to ensure that vessel crews can fully benefit from KONGSBERG’s expertise from the convenience and safety of their homes or offices, while reducing travel, travel cost, time away from home and climate footprint.

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