Crew Training: Crew Management, Retention & Training

“You cannot develop an organisation. You can only develop people, who will develop the organisation. Together is better!”

The words of Roman Heil, Project Manager at TOPSIM-HEISS, which offers a new way of training – passing on real life scenarios to participants. It is an innovative way of turning learning into action and thereby focusing on creating a safety culture and developing a high performing crew.

Atria Learning and Development, based in Germany, turned innovative Topsim Management Simulation Software for the maritime industry into the Human Element in Shipping Simulation (HEISS) following calls from its first customer, Seatrade, who wished to continuously improve on safety and the way people interact with each other.

“They felt there is a lot to be gained in unity, communication between ship and shore, and safe operation of their ships. That is why the ‘Seatrade Standard’ has been established, functioning as an aid for performance and offering a clear framework to work within,” said Mr Heil, who is also Portfolio Manager for Atria.

“The challenge was to have a programme transferring the existing knowledge about the Human Element into hands-on leadership actions in real life, leveraging the investment already made in ‘Understanding the Human Element’ and Maritime Crew Resource Management courses.”

Together, with Tata Interactive, TOPSIM-HEISS was developed to simulate a possible reality onboard a vessel, with participants needing to apply concepts learned in previous courses and exchanging practical experience in order to lead a virtual crew effectively. The results and impact experienced by over 200 participants within the Seatrade organisation led to one conclusion  – the learning tool needed to be available for the whole maritime market.

Mr Heil said the one contributory factor occurring consistently through the industry’s safety reports is the Human Element and people’s ability and capability to deal effectively and safely with the many complex and difficult pressures in daily workloads, not only in emergency situations but also routine operations. Over the last 12 years five top failings were identified which accounted for 75% of the casual factors in maritime incidents – failures in situation awareness, alerting others, communication, complacency and onboard safety culture.

“Effective safety behaviour and culture is a mindset. This cannot just be required by regulations or ordered from offices ashore with checklists and procedures only, but needs to be driven by everybody onboard the ship,” said Mr Heil.

“And HEISS is a very effective tool to make this happen. Applied in a programme, it is not really about delivering training. It is about exchanging industry and scientifically validated best practices, sharing personal experiences within a group of experienced maritime professionals, about giving each other feedback and finally providing individuals and the organisation with ‘Feedforward’.”

TOPSIM-HEISS is based on events and situations which really happened and by ‘executing’ leadership interventions on behalf of the virtual HEISS-Captain. The participants act as a ‘fleet committee’ consulting the newly signed-on captain, whose goal is to inform and motivate all crew members as well as guide them through a development process.

Mr Heil said that HEISS maritime management solution, similar to bridge and engine simulators, when participants train with the equipment of their company’s vessels, was “much more effective when the corporate ‘reality’ is simulated from a customisation. Because of this, customisation is recommended, though that requires some effort from clients in terms of co-creating with experts a corporate-specific version of HEISS.

He said it was extremely rewarding to be part of the learning process himself: “Participants are extremely engaged, and the whole learning process turns from push to pull. Nobody leaves with the impression that this was a course to be attended for a certificate.”