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SeaBot XR leads working group to identify skills needed for autonomous shipping

Gordon Meadow, CEO of SeaBot XR Gordon Meadow, CEO of SeaBot XR

Maritime training expert SeaBot XR is teaming up with the UK’s Royal Navy, and other stakeholders, to identify the necessary skills and competencies for the emerging Maritime Autonomous Surface Ship (MASS) sector. 

The trailblazer working group will develop the apprenticeship route for remote and autonomous maritime operations both above and below the surface.  

The autonomous vessel movement was gaining traction prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and has been further spurred on since.  Autonomous and remotely operated vessels will sail with few or no crew onboard, but their introduction will not reduce the requirement for highly trained personnel.  It will, however, dramatically alter the necessary competencies needed to monitor and control such vessels.  

Gordon Meadow, CEO of SeaBot XR said: “Through the adoption of MASS we’re witnessing a skills paradigm-shift towards the connected mariner.  However, there is a lack of awareness about the skills gap in the maritime industry, that will need to be filled as the implementation of autonomous and remote vessel technology is expanded.” 

Commodore Andy Cree, Royal Navy, says: “The Royal Navy through its lead of the Solent Maritime Enterprise Zone, has a sharp focus on identifying and addressing the future skills gaps associated with new and emergent maritime technologies.  

“We are therefore delighted to be part of this Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group developing employer-led apprenticeship standards in autonomous and remote vessel operations which will pave the way for a skilled maritime workforce of the future.” 

SeaBot XR chairs the Apprenticeship Trailblazer Group in Autonomous and Remote Vessel Operations, whose members include employers and industry stakeholders. In addition to the Royal Navy, the list of employers includes geo-data specialist Fugro, the United Kingdom National Oceanography Centre (UK NOC) and marine robotics company Ocean Infinity.  The protection and indemnity insurance provider Shipowners P&I Club will also participate in the group.   

Each will be working to facilitate the embedding of skills requirements in MASS, yielding a workforce with the same informed decision-making capability as onboard crew today. The trailblazer is being supported through the development process by the regulator for apprenticeship quality, the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education. 

Mr Meadow added: “We will see a continued shift in how onboard and offboard navigational and engineering functions are performed. It’s a very exciting time.  

“A new apprenticeship in Autonomous and Remote Vessel Operations will provide new talent and an even greater, multidisciplined, highly-trained workforce, with the know-how to safely monitor, control and deal with situations remotely.”  

Initially, the group will identify the basic skills and competencies an individual will require to safely navigate, control and manage small- to medium-sized MASS vessels. It will analyse emerging requirements and define various occupational and training standards. As the industry matures, the group will blend this training, building upon basic skills, with more advanced knowledge routes and specialisms that will be required for the operation of Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships.   

Mr Meadow said: “We hope that the work carried out by the group could eventually form a blueprint for maritime regulation and government legislation.” 

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