The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on all educational institutions, forcing cancellations, closures and inventive alternatives - notably the expansion of online learning and distance learning options. Some of those changes will likely stay even after COVID-19 is contained, according to Henrik Jensen, crew manager for Danica.
“The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has forced us all to implement distance learning and, as a result, the maritime training sector has taken a big step forward in embracing the digital evolution which, in all probability, they should have taken five years ago,” Jensen said. “Online training is often more flexible. It often combines a mix of online tutorials, self-work and one-to-one teaching, backed up by verification processes."
In addition, he believes that the cost savings for employers and seafarers are important in these challenging times. Obvious savings come from reduced travel costs for seafarers and from economies of scale. As time goes on, additional cost reductions may come due to foreign competitors.
With distance learning, there is no requirement for the teacher to be in the same country as the student, so the available labor pool for teaching staff could include qualified mariners from anywhere (subject to local licensing requirements). "This will open up the training marketplace to new competition," Jensen said.
At the end of the day, Jensen suggests that there should be no difference between a seafarer who qualifies for his or her post online and one who receives training in person.
Even the U.S. Coast Guard - a regulator well-known for strict adherence to procedure - has adapted its mariner credentialing policies to incorporate remote options. In April, the USCG's National Maritime Center added electronic examination delivery options for license renewal exams. In a self-proctored at-home test, the mariner completes the answer sheet for each module and returns it to NMC via e-mail, allowing license renewals to proceed even while exam centers are closed.