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Alternative fuels - meeting the seafarer training gap

Photo: Marcus Hand Singapore Minister Grace Fu trying out WMSC simulator
As shipowners plough investments into dual-fuel vessels there are increasing questions about who is going to train the crew to handle alternative fuels.

It was an issue highlighted at the launch SGD2.75 million ($2.05 million) upgrade of the Wavelink Maritime Simulation Centre (WMSC), part of the training arm of the Singapore Maritime Officers Union (SMOU).

Speaking at the launch, guest-of-honour, Grace Fu, Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, said, “As we transit towards sustainable shipping, we must not forget that people are at the heart of the industry. We will need to ensure that our maritime workforce is ready and equipped to support the sector’s inclusive transformation.”

Keynote speaker Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International National Transport Workers Federation (ITF), stressed that importance of every worker going to work coming home safely. When it comes to alternative fuels he said, “the problem is transitioning our existing workforce with their current skills… and its doubly difficult as we don’t all agree on when, or how, or what fuel it will be.”

Research commissioned by the Just Transition Taskforce, of which ITF is part, identified 800,000 officers and ratings that needs to be retrained.

“That's a lot of people, and frankly, it's a lot of cost to the industry. And we're not quite sure of how we're going to transfer those costs into the process, but the reality is we have to do it,” Cotton said.

This where facilities such as the upgraded Wavelink simulation centre come in. Since 2007 the SMOU’s training Wavelink Maritime Institute has trained over 25,000 officers and cadets, and the upgraded centre caters to multiple fuel types such as methanol and ammonia.


“This ground-breaking facility, equipped with the latest state-of-the-art simulation technology, is one of the pioneer institutes in Southeast Asia, specifically designed to embrace training seafarers for new generation fuels and concepts,” said Mary Liew, General Secretary of the SMOU.

The upgraded WMSC features new dual-fuel simulators including a VR element to immerse seafarers in realistic training scenarios across different fuel and engine types. The simulator incorporates Wartsila cloud-based simulation combined with Wavelink’s own LMS for blended learning experiences.