Maritiem Instituut Willem Barentsz
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STCW and simulators

With the possibilities given within STCW to use simulators as a means to demonstrate competence it seems essential to have some kind of guidance on the type or class of simulator which is appropriate for a certain competence.
In the marine simulator world there have been ongoing efforts by IMLA, IMSF and others to reach a simulator classification, which can now possibly be applied.
A brief description and explanation of the philosophy and background of these specifications will be given as well as the relation to other rules and aspects including the competences described in the STCW codes. Furthermore the new standard recently issued by DNV will be highlighted.

1. The history

From the time of development of the STCW 78 onward there has been the wish within the maritime simulation world in general and within IMSF in particular to try and establish a system of standardization or classification for marine simulators. In that way some uniformity could be brought into the evaluation and comparison of the simulator systems of the training institutes and others. A similar system of classification was suggested and has been implemented in the airline training industry since the late 1980's.

Many attempts were made during the IMSF annual meetings and the Marsim conferences to come to an agreement on how this classification could be. However, little progress was made due to the great diversity of systems, different technical designs and other interests of the members involved.

Then at the MARSIM 93 conference and annual meeting a classification working-group was established and a categorization system was suggested for three types of simulators on four levels of functionality. Based on members input this draft was further perfected and the information forwarded to IMO for consideration of inclusion in the revised STCW text.

The suggestions made it into the draft revision of STCW 95 but were then rejected and the final text of STCW 95 contained no reference to the simulator classification efforts. Obviously these disappointing developments slowed down the progress in the working-group but it was felt essential to continue, so at MARSIM 96 the classification working-group was revived.

The following annual IMSF meeting in 1997 clearly showed that the need for a classification system was as essential as ever due to the strong emphasis put on simulators by STCW 95. However, at the same time it was becoming clear that with the ongoing technical developments in computing, image generation and graphics it would be very difficult to reach a consensus within the IMSF for a classification system if this was to be based on technical criteria. Probably a different approach would be necessary and could lead to a concrete result.

2. The need
A new element brought to us by STCW 95 is the identification of learning objectives required to be met for various ranks, functions and subjects. Demonstrating one’s competence can be done by approved simulator training where appropriate. However, how this shall be achieved as well as what type of simulator is required to achieve demonstrating a certain competence are questions which will easily come to mind and for which no answer can be found in STCW 95.

Standards of competence are by definition related to functions. The functional approach will allow for competences to be developed which can form a common basis for the certification of seafarers. In a competence-based training system the basis of the training design is explicit and has measurable standards of performance. This implies that assessment will form an essential part in a competence-based system. This in turn will require a high degree of QA to take place in order to check that the training and assessment are performed in a proper way. The competence-based standards then form the framework for assessment. Evidence of performance will thus be monitored and measured, possibly by means of before-and-after testing on simulators.

Demonstrating the competence by approved simulator training where appropriate is a possibility offered by STCW 95. Approved simulator training should at least be done on the relevant type of simulator. There can hardly be disagreement about that. Obviously this means that bridge competences have to be shown on a bridge simulator and engine competences on the engine-room equivalent.

However, as not every bridge-related simulator is the same, a distinction can be made between the various types, what has been referred to as classification of simulators or the hierarchy within the different subject areas. This stands for bridge simulators, engine-room simulators, cargohandling and communications trainers. And although there are other applications of simulator equipment, these are the topics which are described in STCW whereby simulator-training assessment can play a part.

If classification based on technical specifications seems difficult to agree on then there could be an alternative by means of distinction by function in accordance with the functional approach seen in STCW 95. In this way the arguments about which technical solutions are of the highest or lower classes can be avoided. The essential question will become: which functions can be performed and demonstrated on which level of simulator.

3. The suggested classes

Within the bridge-related simulator systems many types and levels of sophistication exist. The levels of simulator systems that can be distinguished are suggested in the design drafts and are as follows:

category 1 Full Mission
category 2 Multi Task
category 3 Limited Task
category 4 Single Task.
With the attention in STCW on assessment of skill performance all of the above categories will be required to have some kind of a structured assessment and evaluation system as well. In this way an objective and comparable tool can be provided for the instructor/assessors to suitably use their simulator for demonstration of trainees' competence of relevant aspects mentioned in the revised STCW or to conduct and evaluate Colregs or model course training programmes.

  • Category 1 - Full Mission.

"Capable of simulating a total environment, including capability for advanced manoeuvring and pilotage training in restricted waterways." (This implies an interactive instructor facility connected to a fully equipped ship's bridge with high quality visuals, sophisticated mathematical ship and environment models, a sound system, numerous playing areas, multiple own and target ship models and possibly a motion system).

  • Category 2 - Multi Task.

"Capable of simulating a total navigation environment, but excluding the capability for advanced restricted-water manoeuvring." (This implies e.g. a radar simulator with navigation equipment and a simpler, limited visual system. The field of view of the visuals should preferably be at least the arc of the masthead and side navigation lights and an interactive instructor station).

  • Category 3 - Limited Task.

"Capable of simulating an environment for limited (blind) navigation and collision avoidance training." (This means what used to be designated as a radar simulator with for instance an instructor station and a number of own ship cubicles with radar and limited instrumentation).

  • Category 4 - Single Task.

"A desk-top simulator utilizing computer graphics to simulate particular instruments, or to simulate a limited navigation/manoeuvring environment but with the operator located outside (bird's-eye view) the environment." (This will mean for instance simulation on a pc of one instrument, such as is used in a navigation instrument lab. This type of system is particularly appropriate to provide multiple trainee stations for familiarization training in preparation of a more comprehensive simulator).

4. An example
The Collision Regulations can be taught and examined in many ways. Diagrams, templates, drawings, models are all teaching tools which have been used in the past. Obviously nowadays with the latest generation of computerized simulators a new and powerful training and assessment tool has emerged. Both national as well as international collision regulations will offer application possibilities for the bridge simulator systems.

Based on the above mentioned possible configuration of the various categories of bridge simulator it becomes possible to combine all aspects of STCW competences, IMO Model Courses, collision regulations and simulator categories in a tabular format. In this way it is quite easy and clear to distinguish which type of simulator system is required to fulfill which type of learning objective in relation to teaching or examining collision regulations.

In the same way tables can be designed for other types of simulator equipment such as engine-room, cargohandling and communication processes and cross reference tables can be generated to show the relationships. Also types of training can be included in the tables, in that way giving a prospective or an experienced user the possibility of easily distinguishing which simulator to apply or to invest in. Table : Bridge Simulator Applicability

Table : Bridge Simulator Applicability


Type of Simulator Colreg Rules STCW 95 IMO Model Course
Full Mission 5 – 10
12 – 19
20 – 31
34 – 37
table A-II/1 item 1-6
table A-II/2 item 1-8
table A-II/3 item 1-5
section A-VIII/2


Multi Task 5 - 8, 10
table A-II/1 item 1-6
table A-II/2 item 1-6
table A-II/3 item 1-5
section A-VIII/2
Limited Task 6–10
table A-II/1 item 3-6
table A-II/2 item 6
table A-II/3 item 3-4
Single Task 19 table A-II/1 item 3 1.07
CBT 23-31 -- --


5. The new initiative

The efforts done so far on categorization and classification of simulators have become the foundation for a new standard which has recently been introduced by Det Norske Veritas.

The purpose of the Standard is to ensure that the simulations provided by any maritime simulator include an appropriate level of physical and behavioural realism in accordance with recognised training or assessment objectives.

This purpose is derived from the STCW Code Section A-I/12 where it is stated that each Party (i.e. the administration in the State where the training or assessment programme shall be approved) shall ensure that a simulator used under certain conditions shall fulfill six general performance requirements. The full text can be read in the Convention but the following is the interpretation of the essential aspects:

suitable for training and/or assessment objectives
physical realism appropriate to training and/or assessment objectives
sufficient behavioural realism
capable of producing a variety of conditions (operating environment)
the trainee should be able to interact
the instructor/assessor should be able to control/monitor/record exercises
It seems that the lack of common understanding of the requirements originates in the phrases "appropriate physical realism" and "sufficient behavioural realism", which will also have a direct effect on the four other requirements.

The DNV Standard has now identified this appropriate physical realism and the sufficient behavioural realism in an operating environment, which in turn will enable an instructor/assessor to create exercises suitable for the training and/or assessment objectives, where the learner can interact.

It is the responsibility of the Maritime Administration in each country to approve simulators used for training and/or assessment under certain conditions. The DNV Standard should be seen as an industry standard, which has no formal value unless it is acknowledged by the relevant Maritime Administration.

6. The structure

The Standard gives requirements for the performance of maritime simulators. Technical details of the simulators are avoided as much as possible. The main interest is what the learner experiences and not to focus on what happens behind the panels. One of the most important requirements in the Standard is that it can be verified that the defined training and/or assessment objectives can be fulfilled.

The consequence of this is that the capabilities of the simulator must be based on competence requirements given in STCW-95. The Standard does not give any detailed procedure on how to reach such. It is delegated to the one seeking certification to justify the functionalities. The relevant competence requirements in STCW-95 are broken down and subdivided in unambiguous simulation training and assessment objectives. Here one may meet a general weakness with STCW-95 i.e. that the competence requirements are generic and not sufficiently specific.

Here descriptive works such as the IMO Model Courses and the various examples of training record books (e.g. ISF on board training record books for deck/engineer cadets) should be of great help. Many countries also have a national curriculum, which may be even more detailed. The main thing, from the point of view of the certifying body, is that all links and references are clearly documented. The simulator performance description will form the basis for the required test programmes for the functionality.

The detailed requirements in the Standard for physical realism, behavioural realism and operating environment is mainly setting the framework to enable the simulation exercises to be created. In the Standard maritime simulators are subdivided in four function areas:

Bridge Operation
Machinery Operation
Radio Communication
Cargo handling
In turn each of those function areas is divided in four simulator classes:

Class A (full mission)
Class B (multi-task)
Class C (limited task)
Class X (special task)
The basis for dividing simulator systems into function areas and simulator classes have been the STCW 95 competence tables where it is stated that "approved simulator systems can be used for training and/or assessment". An exception has been made for STCW-95 Regulation V/1 (tankerman) where stated competence requirements have been included for liquid-cargohandling simulators.

The Standard was originally created to cover simulator systems addressing certain competences in STCW 95. This would have created a limitation since all simulators do not fit in. It seemed appropriate to create a structure to include other types of simulators as well such as for:

DP (dynamic positioning) operations
dredging operations
crowd/crisis management training
research (port/fairway design, etc.)
tugs and tug assistance
VTS operations
By changing the "single-task" simulator originally suggested to Class X (special task), other types of simulators can also be certified according to the Standard. The Standard gives the option under Class X, to individually select competence criteria (from STCW and/or elsewhere) which should form the basis for certification. By these arrangements it should be possible that both the original "single-task" simulator and "other types" of simulators fit in.

It is important to clarify that the present Standard is introducing requirements for the simulator system (i.e. the technical system creating the simulated situations and its control). For a successful outcome of training and/or assessment on any simulator, the training programme and the instructor/assessor competence are of the greatest importance. The certification by the simulator standard should therefore be seen as a whole, where there shall be an approved training programme operated with quality standards and where the instructor/assessor qualifications shall be thoroughly considered.

7. The conclusions
Although still rather controversial in the circles of simulator operators and manufacturers it is felt that there is a definite need for some kind of systemization of the types of simulation equipment used in maritime training and assessment. As every operator and manufacturer has his own interests it could be a sensible alternative that an objective body such as DNV produces a set of rules for their own classification purposes. In mutual agreement all or part of these rules could be adapted by the users for inclusion in their own guidelines and possibly adaption by IMO.

The present lack of criteria in education and training where simulators are used is not beneficial for a competent seafarer as the end product. It can be foreseen that simulator training and assessment will be increasingly important in the future of the maritime industry and the standard will possibly provide a framework of criteria when developing and implementing new maritime simulator systems.

8. References
1.Cross, Stephen .J. (1998) "The functional approach to simulator classification". IMSF Annual General Meeting, Sydney, Launceston, Australia
2.Cross, Stephen J. , Olofsson, Martin (2000) Classification of maritime simulators, the final attempt, introducing DNV’s new standard. Marsim 2000, Orlando USA.
3.Drown, Dennis et al. (1993 - 1997) "Classification Working Group", International Marine Simulator Forum.
4.DNV, (2000), "Standard for Certification of Maritime Simulator Systems", Det Norske Veritas, Høvik , Norway.
5.IMO, (1996), "International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978, as amended in 1995", International Maritime Organization, London, UK.