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Current Practices on Crew Requirements and Training on the NSR and the NWP

(by Karl Magnus Eger)


The structure of training is usually subdivided into four main categories:

  • Theoretical Training: Creates a general understanding of ice navigation, icing, icebreaking operations and escorting in ice1 .
  • Practical Training Course: Navigator is considered as a student or trainee on board a ship, in addition to the regular crew, in order to observe and learn from experienced officers.
  • On the Job Experience: Inexperienced navigators are integrated as part of the regular crew and have to learn various ice operations from experienced colleagues.
  • Simulator Training: Enables navigators and crews to be trained properly for actions in different ice conditions including emergency situations. The main purpose of simulator training course is an increase of a professional level of the navigators appointed on large-capacity vessels or vessels with unusual manoeuvrable characteristics2 .

The training courses follow the requirements expressed in the STCW; the IMO Guidelines; the Canadian ASPPR and the Russian NSR Guidelines2 . Various maritime training institutions are developing or have developed ice navigation courses, employing full mission bridge simulators and associated software products. The IMO, for instance, has developed a program of model training to assist institutions developing ice navigation courses with an emphasis on meeting STCW requirements.

From a survey made during the ARCOP-study, data was collected from well-known seafaring countries including: Finland, Russia, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and Netherlands. The survey showed that there were several theoretical courses available for navigation in ice, with duration between 1 and 10 days, at a cost between 300 and 2000 USD. The survey concluded that “Practical Training Courses” are rarely offered. However, the ARCOP-study found that the existing practical training course with duration between 3 and 30 days have a cost around 2000 USD3 .  The same survey considered that most ship owners in North Europe do not train their personnel explicitly and extensively for navigation in ice covered waters. Operators of icebreakers in North Europe do train their personnel, but training of inexperienced navigators is mainly performed by so called “On the Job Experience”. Theoretical Training is limited to nautical officers mostly4 . This statement was also supported by one representative from the Central Marine Research and Design Institute during one of the ARCOP workshops:

“There are no Russian requirements regarding the crew. There are the STCW requirements. In practice, the shipping company assesses the skills of the captain, and their assessment is trusted. This leads to situation in which shipping companies have certified crews, who have never seen real ice… Not all crew members or officers can have completed on-board practical training, because the demand for skilled officers is rising5 .

With regard to the NWP, Canada is working to develop a model course using the simulator at the Marine Institute in St John’s, Newfoundland2 . However, there are currently

“(…) no real substantial qualifications when it comes to requirements for crew operating on the NWP. There is neither any formalized training at the moment (…) the CCG relies pretty much exclusively ‘On the Job Experience’, achieved by retired CCG captains. Nevertheless, there should be more specified training required in order to enter the NWP6 .

The most effective training is the so called “structured training” which include simulation with an icebreaker manoeuvring in different types of ice as well as simulation training with commercial ship ice manoeuvring in combination with “On the Job Experience”. Currently, most training of seafarers has been accomplished in an ad hoc approach, with the instruction of persons new to vessel operations in ice covered waters achieved by simple on the job experience and depending on knowledge transfer by experienced northern mariners. In other words, formal education requirements have been non-existent6 , despite various classification societies working to develop such certified training programmes. The CCG recognize that ships on voyages on the NWP have crew drawn from tropical countries possessing little knowledge of the details of ice navigation and little experience of living and working in cold climates6 .

“Many of the chartered ships use crews typically from the Philippines because they are inexpensive (…) some of them have never operated in cold weather, they don’t have the experience, the equipment (…) some of them neither have warm clothes6 .

The general opinion is that theoretical training combined with practical training is essential for navigators of icebreakers, whereas theoretical training or on the job experience is considered sufficient for navigators of vessels that are assisted by icebreakers4 . Opinions on simulator training are more divided. According to the AMSA-study, simulation training is now the most effective way of preparing crews for ice navigation2 . Training Centres in Russia, for instance, use TRANSAS equipment, e.g. Navy Trainer Professional with an ice navigation module, which simulates the vessel activity in different ice conditions. The training course "Preparation for navigation in ice conditions" developed at the Makarov Training Centre in St. Petersburg consists of the short specialized courses intended for captains, the chief mates and navigators.

On the other hand, and according to the ARCOP-study, the simulator training is not always found to be effective because reliable and efficient modelling techniques are currently unavailable, and because it is very difficult to create models for ships operating inice5 . Regarding the TRANSAS- based simulator, the ARCOP-study argues that the functionality and realistic appearance of the ice field movements and the dynamic interaction between ship hull and ice are restricted to very simple scenarios such as navigation in level ice, navigation in an opened lead and ship handling during convoy operations.

However, developments of the simulator training technology are in progress. For instance the Ship Manoeuvring Simulator Centre (SMSC) in Norway has, in cooperation with Det Norske Veritas (DNV), developed advanced mathematical models for the realistic visualization of ice for real-time simulation. The purpose of this new ice manoeuvring simulator includes ice management, different loading scenarios in drift ice and manoeuvring in ice.


  •  1. ARCOP D3.7.1 (2004), p.6
  •  2. AMSA (2008), Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, Report Draft, 14 November 2008
  •  3. ARCOP (2005), Arctic Operational Platform, Working Paper D3.7.2.Report on Existing Courses and Facilities. By Anniek Platzer, Wagenborg Shipping Sergey Rodionov, Central Marine Research and Design Institute, Leif Baarman, Meriturva, Finland 2005
  •  4. ARCOP D3.7.1 (2002), p.4
  •  5. ARCOP Workshop.9 (2006), p.129
  •  6. Interviews/Conversations: Canadian Coast Guard 14 January (2010)

Karl Magnus Eger, 2010, Current Practices on Crew Requirements and Training on the NSR and NWP, CHNL.©