E-Learning on the high seas: Anti-piracy training online

by Sandy Sweet, Canadian Police Knowledge Network

 

E-Learning isn’t something that you would naturally associate with pirates. But in today’s high-risk mariner environment, knowing how to respond effectively to a pirate attack is the difference between winning or losing the fight. Using an online approach to deliver anti-piracy training is one of the most effective ways to teach mariners the techniques to detect, deter and defend against pirate attacks. Recently, the Canadian Police Knowledge Network and the International Maritime Security Network collaborated to do just that. Sandy Sweet reports.

In 2010, it was estimated that piracy cost the global economy between $7 and $12 billion. In that year, the International Maritime Bureau reported 445 attacks, 53 hijackings, and more than 1100 passengers or crew held hostage.


While CPKN’s day to day business focuses on developing online training for the police and law enforcement community, we occasionally branch into other areas by way of our affiliate partner, the Justice Knowledge Network. JKN is a division of Holland College (Prince Edward Island), and like CPKN, specializes in developing e-learning for workplace training. In 2009, JKN was approached by the International Maritime Security Network, a US-based maritime security company dedicated to combating maritime terrorism. Working around the world, IMSN delivers USCG-certified (US Coast Guard) training, consulting, and hard security services. At that time, it was obvious to IMSN that the maritime industry needed readily accessible training to prepare and defend itself efectively against the growing incidence of piracy attacks. And that’s where this story begins.

So is piracy that great a threat? Though it may not be something that most of us think about on a day to day basis, it is a critical issue within the maritime industry. When you consider that 80% of the world’s trade, including manufactured goods, food and oil, is shipped by water, piracy is very much a threat to global commerce. In 2010, it was estimated that piracy cost the global economy between $7 and $12 billion. In that year, the International Maritime Bureau reported 445 attacks, 53 hijackings, and more than 1100 passengers or crew held hostage. But reports, like the murder of four American hostages by Somali pirates this past February, clearly illustrate just how much more it costs in human terms.

IMSN’s approach to anti-piracy defense emphasizes the collective responsibility of the crew in the event of an attack.[...] In addition to reviewing the statistics, facts, and motivations behind piracy, this three hour course focuses on maintaining crew and ship safety.


With this in mind, we considered the IMSN initiative to be both incredibly important and timely. We immediately began working with IMSN to transition traditional training content for online delivery. All our development projects, regardless of subject matter, follow a standard development processes. During the design process, our instructional design team worked with IMSN’s experts to organize content into effective learning modules for an adult audience. Our development team then applied standard development protocols, incorporating graphics-rich flash and assessments, to create a stimulating learning environment. Other features, such as text-to-voice software, add further dimension to the course while maintaining the ability to update content easily on a regular basis. After a rigorous review by our own QA team and IMSN’s security experts, the Anti-Piracy Defense Course was launched to the maritime industry in February of this year. 

The nature of our business brings us into contact with a lot of very interesting subjects and highly knowledgeable people every day. But working with IMSN has been particularly compelling. IMSN’s team of maritime security and shipping experts apply their real world experience to proven strategies to repel and defend against attacks. Throughout this project, we certainly heard our share of hair-raising adventures. But when it comes to the training, they’re all business. IMSN’s approach to anti-piracy defense emphasizes the collective responsibility of the crew in the event of an attack. As such, the Anti-Piracy Defense Course is designed for all crew members, regardless of rank or duty. In addition to reviewing the statistics, facts, and motivations behind piracy, this three hour course focuses on maintaining crew and ship safety. Organized in several modules, the course reviews the identification of shipboard risks and vulnerabilities, developing on-board strategies to detect, defer, and defend against attacks, and breaks down procedures for on-board drills. It also addresses how to behave in a hostage situation, or in the event that you are successful in overtaking the pirates, how to secure prisoners. While this training is just one component of a comprehensive security plan, the course is intended to generate awareness and develop an appropriate mind set among crew members. From a regulatory standpoint, it is designed to meet the mandatory minimum requirements for knowledge, understanding and proficiency as set forth in Section A-VI/6 of the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Code, specifically as it relates to piracy.

There are a lot of intriguing elements to this initiative – after all, you can’t get much more exciting than pirates on the high seas -- but that aside, why train for what is obviously a very real, hands-on problem in a virtual environment? Like most things, it comes down to time and money. An e-learning approach allows a shipping company to train its entire crew, be it 15 or 15,000, on the essentials of anti-piracy without the hassle of schedules and personnel considerations. It delivers training in less time and at significantly less cost and with fewer infrastructure requirements than traditional training programs. Regardless of where they are in the world, crew will receive the same high quality training experience and because they can review the material at their own pace, the learning outcomes are often better than classroom-based training events. 

Another advantage to e-learning is the flexibility of the delivery model. This course will be available online, accessible from any Internet-connected computer. In this way, IMSN can track learner activity on its secure learning portal on behalf of client companies. This provides companies with regular reports on a training initiative, across the entire organization or on a ship-by-ship basis. However, in situations where the Internet is not accessible, this training will also be offered on CD for shipboard use. This dual approach ensures maximum accessibility, whether crews are at sea or at dock. It is a wholly modern day solution to an age-old problem.   

The Anti-Piracy Defense Course is currently under certification review by Det Norske Veritas and several other prominent international shipping organizations. That certification will be the gateway for thousands of mariners to access essential training on dealing with the threat of pirate attacks. And then, I think, we’ll begin to turn the tide on global piracy.



For more details, or to view a demo of this course, visit the IMSN website at www.imsn.us (Distance Learning).

 

 


Photograph: Online training for Navy officers

 

 

 

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