In Depth: Prevention is Better than the Cure – Working Hard in the Netherlands for Safety in the Cruise Industry

With extensive training programmes and a drive to constantly improve safety procedures the cruise industry tries to minimise incidents at sea. Safety training can concentrate on job performance in order to prevent incidents from happening. But also programmes give training on how to react when an incident occurs. At two locations in the Netherlands, people are working hard to train cruise personnel to be prepared for all things.

Understanding teamwork

Hans Hederström is the managing director of CSMART, the training centre for Carnival Corporation & plc, the world’s largest cruise company with ten global cruise line brands. He is also responsible for the new Arison Maritime Center in Almere, which will open mid-July as the home of the state-of-the-art CSMART Academy. In his role, he does everything in his ability to continually improve safety at sea. Hederström and his team will do this by annually training 6,500 bridge and engineering officers for Carnival Corporation’s cruise lines, which include well-known brands such as Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises and P&O Cruises. “Understanding teamwork is the key to success”, he says.

The first step is to convince participants the importance of the course. “There must be a willingness to learn, otherwise all our work is useless.” That is why Hederström starts by explaining the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’. His team shows first a case study of an incident and explains how it could be prevented. “Then we tell them how a new way of working together can minimise incidents and we are going to show that by using a simulator.”

Hederström has something to work with. Under his supervision, Carnival Corporation built the most progressive maritime centre of its kind in the world on the outskirts of Almere. The centrepiece of the new seven-acre campus is the CSMART Academy. It has the most advanced bridge and engine room simulator technology and equipment available on the market. The new Arison Maritime Center is more than double the size of the old facility that was also located in Almere.

Increase safety

Construction workers are working hard to put the finishing touches on the interior of the Arison Maritime Center. The complex is named after the founding family of the company, which includes Micky Arison, who serves as its chairman of the board of directors. Technicians are installing flat screen TV’s and office chairs stand against the wall, waiting to be paired with a desk. Hans Hederström is standing in the light filled atrium of the training centre with his hands behind his back. For more than three decades he has been involved in training people to increase safety and the Arison Maritime Center is the crown on his work, a visualisation of his principles.

The new building is a statement on how important Carnival Corporation considers safety. The first draft was made with the use of an existing building in mind. When Hederström presented these plans he was asked if this was the best option. “It was not. So they asked what I wanted. I asked for a brand new purpose- built training centre.” The company gave him the flexibility to realise his ideas.

As Hederström walks around in the new training centre, he greets every workman he passes. At the entrance of the new building, he stops to make small talk with the security guards. In an age of technology he strongly believes in human capital. “Humans are not the weak link, but the strong link.” He thinks that humans better adapt than machines. “People bounce back and cope with surprises. We are resilient.”

The heart of the building is already nicknamed ‘the canyon’. It is an open corridor, nine by forty metres, two levels below the ground floor. A big stairway starting right after the entrance leads to the place. The corridor gives entrance to the four simulation areas. These consists of a bridge simulator and below that an engine room simulator, both full-mission. “With this formation we want to mimic the situation on a ship. The experience has to be as real as possible.”

The new five-story centre will also include 24 part-task engine simulators, eight debriefing rooms and eight part-task bridge simulators. It will also include an automation workshop with two high voltage training rooms with real and virtual equipment. There is also an advanced medical centre for medical check-ups of all participants. With 10,000 square metres the new CSMART is five times the size of the company’s old facility, which has been in operation since 2009 in Almere.

The bridge layout of CSMART

Learning events

Training must be positive, Hederström believes, otherwise it won’t work. He remembers when he trained on a simulator. “It was somewhere in the eighties and because it focused on making participants fail, I lost all self-confidence.” That is why at CSMART the instructors avoid using the term ‘human errors’, which is a judging and blaming expression. “We rather speak of ‘normal variation in team performance’ and ‘learning events’. Hederström stresses that nobody gets fired if they underperform in training. “If you do not meet the standards, we will help you to get to the required standard.”

Carnival Corporation wants to train over 6,500 deck and engineering officers every year. “All officers are required by corporate policy to spend one week in Almere every year. Otherwise it won’t stick.” All the employees have to be accommodated. That is why an 11-story, 176-room hotel for the trainees is part of the Arison Maritime Center.

All of the deck and engineering officers of the ten global cruise line brands that work under the Carnival umbrella have to do the annual training. Crewmembers of different cruise line brands can be teamed up to work together the simulator. It is no problem that different work cultures are mixed? “Procedures overwrite culture, just as in the airline industry”, says Hederström. And are seasoned captains willing to accept that a simulator can teach them something? “One high Carnival manager once said that everyone who checks in at CSMART must leave his rank and ego at the door.” And Hederström states, in a simulator environment you can develop and maintain skills to deal with critical high risk operations, which would be too dangerous to train in the real world.

Serious gaming

Not only in Almere people are work hard to increase safety on cruise ships. The company XVR Simulation, located near the central station of Delft, creates virtual reality software to train and educate safety professionals. Over the past 15 years the company has built global experience in emergency response, crisis and disaster management. A special branch of the company focuses on the maritime and offshore sector. Recently training software was developed that can simulate emergency situations on board of cruise ships. This software will be integrated in the Arison Maritime Center.

As business development manager Maritime & Offshore, Tim Lodder is closely involved with this new market. The best way to describe the products of XVR Simulation is to compare it with a computer game. “We use the term ‘serious games’ at the office. But take the word games not too lightly, our software helps to save lives.”

Lodder points to flat screen TV. It shows a virtual reality graphic of a fire on the bow of a cruise ship. “This is an example of a the situation our users have to deal with.” XVR is designed for those who are in charge of an emergency on board of a cruise ship. “In an emergency it is all about clear communications, procedural knowledge, skills and human behaviour.”

To educate, train and exercise, participants can move around in a virtual ship environment which is familiar to them, and lets them deal with realistic on board emergency situations. The software is able to facilitate an unlimited amount of participants in the same scenario and the instructor can follow each individual on his own interface. Stress levels can be raised and unexpected moves of the participants can be facilitated at any time during the training. “With a single mouse click you can add a leak causing the ship to start tilting. How is everybody going to respond to that?”

Most of the times the training focuses on the captain, staff captain and the on scene commander. When a serious incident occurs on a cruise ship, the staff captain retreats in the safety centre. He coordinates the on board emergency response organisation as the captain stays responsible for the ship and its safe navigation. The staff captain stays informed by his on-scene commander. The position of the on-scene commander is flexible, most likely he is somewhere near the incident. He gives orders and gets information from the various team leaders, such as the fire team leader or the stretcher team leader.

Soundproof pod

Team leaders can be part of the training, but usually are left out. Ideally, all the participants do the training in a soundproof pod. They move around with joysticks or gamepads. The pods are lined up, so the instructor has an overview.

XVR simulation employs industry experts to tailor its products. As a former first officer on cruise ships, Tim Lodder has firsthand knowledge of the difference that virtual reality training can make. “I used to give safety training with power point and a cardboard with the word ‘fire’ written on it for drills. Everybody creates his own interpretation of the training scenario.” A part of the group gets it directly and some have an idea of the situation. “But there are also participants that have no clue at all.”

Now crew members walk around as a digital character in the virtual version of the ship they know and sail on. For the Holland America Line the company built a virtual cruise ship which is an exact replica of one of the shipping company’s newest ships.

“Our software visualises every possible situation”, says Lodder. He says that a lot of safety plans are made in the office and that it is hard to check if they work in reality. “With our software you can test new safety or security procedure on seaworthiness.” The building costs of the Arison Maritime Center are an approximate € 75 million. Money well spent, managing director Hederström thinks. “Everyone knows what it cost, but nobody knows what the Arison Maritime Center will save.”

Jaap Proost

This article was previously published in Maritime Holland edition #4 – 2016.

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