Simulation has been an essential part of maritime bridge and engine room training over the years. Unfortunately, it is not the most cost-effective method of training. Many maritime authorities have discussed whether the pros of simulation initiatives outweigh the cons, but in the wake of tragedies at sea, such as the recent Thomson Majesty lifeboat drill accident, which led to the deaths of five crewmembers and injuries of three others, authorities are questioning onboard safety more than ever.
Officials are trying to determine whether simulation training is effective at reducing the incidence of maritime accidents or whether the funds are better spent investing in other safety initiatives. A common argument regarding safety training in general is that “the value of one life saved is greater than any cost – as long as it is affordable.” If the simulator training has the potential to save at least one person’s life, then the costs associated with the program are worth it.
However, this train of thought isn’t exactly the most reasonable. There are several other safety initiatives that might prove more cost-effective and may better improve the chances of maintaining safety onboard vessels. So is investing in improved simulator operations worth it?
This very idea is what Professor Capt. Stephen Cross of the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz (MIWB) in West Terschelling, The Netherlands, pondered.
In an attempt to examine the effectiveness of simulators in improving maritime safety operations, Prof. Capt. Cross performed a study on the benefits and downfalls of seafarer simulator training and his conclusions were nothing short of compelling.
At the IMLA 20 conference on maritime education and training in July, 2012 at the MIWB, Prof. Capt. Cross presented is paper, “Aspects of Simulation in Met – Improving Shipping Safety and Economy,” in which he discusses his findings on the economic pros and cons of simulator training.
“If simulator training can improve safety of operations, this would result in fewer accidents, which in turn will save funds, which could be used to afford the additional training efforts,” argued Prof. Capt. Cross. “Additionally, if the amount of the increased costs of training is compared to the funds spent presently on damages from accidents, a simple cost benefit analysis could show if such training efforts are worthwhile.”
Prof. Capt. Cross then conducted a study, examining the current conditions of MET and maritime operations, as well as the percentage of maritime accidents that may have been prevented with simulator training.
The study first looked at the percentage of maritime accidents that were attributed to human error and those that could have been (or were) caused by a lack of crewmember training. Then, Prof. Capt. Cross examined the number of accidents that might be reduced through improvements in simulator training to determine whether the costs of investing in simulator training outweighs the cost savings from eliminating this method altogether.
After reviewing various maritime accidents, Prof. Capt. Cross found that over 65 percent of accidents were the result of insufficient crewmember training.
But because not all skills required by crewmembers to properly perform their tasks can be taught in a simulator, Prof. Capt. Cross had to determine what percentage of these skills were, in fact, “teachable” by simulation training.
According to Prof. Capt. Cross’s research, 58 percent of the skills could be taught via simulator training and found that the performance of crewmembers following simulator training improved by 45 percent.
After putting all the data together, the analysis estimated that simulator training could result in 14 percent fewer maritime accidents.
So are simulators for training purposes worth it? Prof. Capt. Cross says YES.
“Over the 28 year period of [IOPCF] observations used, at least 856 million $US have been claimed for accidents which in some way have a relationship to bridge, engine room or cargo handling procedures,” he argued. “[A 14 percent reduction in maritime accidents] related to the simulator training course cost would allow for at least 376946 ‘average’ student simulator courses to be afforded. As this figure is almost similar to the global officer population it means every officer could be afforded a simulator training course from the avoided accident claim costs of the IOPC Fund relevant accidents.”
If Prof. Capt. Cross’ estimates are accurate, simulator training can not only improve safety, but can also reduce overall training costs.
Unfortunately, in the wake of the Costa Concordia capsizing accident, the Thomson Majesty crewmember accident and the Carnival Triumph cruise ship fire accident, 14 percent isn’t good enough.
More has to be done in order to protect the lives of everyone onboard vessels at sea, and while training operations and other safety improvements are expensive, the cost of losing a life because of someone’s inadequate experience, equipment failure or some other form of seafarer negligence or wrongdoing has no monetary equivalence.
The maritime accident attorneys at our firm, Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have represented thousands of passengers and crewmembers injured onboard vessels since 1971 and unfortunately, the vast majority of these incidents could have been prevented.
While no amount of compensation can erase the often permanent damage suffered because of a maritime accident, our attorneys work diligently to help victims and their loved ones obtain justice for the pain and suffering they have been forced to endure.
If you or someone you love was involved in an accident at sea, contact our maritime law firm today to schedule a consultation and discuss your options in filing a claim.
Prof. Capt. Cross’ Simulator Training Research – maritimeprofessional.com