Education and training

Council reignites debate over simulator training for sea-time reductions

26 February 2020

Nautilus Council is to reignite the debate over simulator training for sea-time reductions ahead of proposals to develop a UK simulator training model.

The Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) has put together a working group to develop proposals for British cadet training that includes simulator time. The courses could emulate the Dutch model, which allows a 30-day reduction in sea-time for 10 days of simulator training.

Industry and training schools in the Netherlands have used simulator time to reduce sea-time for maritime cadets for 20 years, fueled in part by the difficulty of securing enough trainee posts onboard Dutch ships.

According to a 2018 preliminary study into simulator training in the Netherlands by Marin for the Dutch government, the benefits of incorporating simulator training alongside onboard training include:

  • opportunity to make mistakes without damaging consequences
  • controlled conditions and repeatability
  • structured and standard learning content
  • learning content matched to individual ability
  • learning process more efficient
  • performance monitored by professional trainers
  • assessment uses validated criteria
  • greater depth of training on irregular or dangerous situations
  • can train team performance
  • can train on wide variety of vessel types
  • trainee can experience situations more commonly handled by senior officers
  • a standardised set of scenarios can be taught and assessed.

Critics of simulator training for sea-time reductions say that many cadets lack onboard experience already and to reduce that even more is counterproductive.

Cadets would not experience the reality of life spent at sea for many months via a simulator and could find that transition even more difficult with reduced sea-time during training.

The downsides to reducing sea-time for cadets include:

  • restricted experience in watch officer duties
  • lack of cultural experience with international crew
  • reduced experience in handling effects of stress, fatigue and boredom
  • reduced experience in working conditions such as motion, noise and temperature
  • reduced experience in operational delays involved with working on large ships
  • reduced experiences in machinery repair and maintenance

Council will hold a debate on simulator training for sea-time reductions at its next meeting on April 22.

Members that wish to submit their opinions can email professional and technical officer David Appleton at: