Meet the Alphas: the precursers to ship automation?

By Craig Eason, Edtiorial Director, Fathom.World

GENERATION Alpha consists of your children and those around the world born after 2010. This is the generation that was born into a world of computer tablets and smart phones. They are learning about the world through a screen.

Some, like my six year old daughter, are already being taught basic computer code, and accept willingly this digital life. They will handle augmented reality through goggles and other wearables. They are the digital natives.

If you have never heard of Generation Alpha, the video below outlines how they will be immersed in a new world.

In a little over a decade this  Generation Alpha will be seeking jobs and careers, but will do so in the scope of what their societal expectations are. In a little over a decade the vessels that have been built over the last five years will likely still be in service. Will the Alpha generation want to work on them?

And in a similar light, if she decides to follow in her father’s footsteps, how will my daughter be taught the skills needed to become a deck officer? I make the assumption that such roles will still exist of course, but given the time taken for the Manilla Amendments of the  International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (the STCW Convention), it is likely a safe bet.

I am sure the folk from the IMO member states and other associate members that agreed the Manilla Amendments  were not thinking of my daughter and those of her age when they debated the changes, despite the belief they were writing what they perceived as necessary global standards “to train and certify seafarers to operate technologically-advanced ships for some time to come.”

These amendments did include many welcome and much needed changes, including rest and work hours, the training of electro-technical staff and further fire and safety training. It also included reference to web-based and e-learning courses.

My question though is whether training institutes have the capability to offer learning and training methods which will compete with the ways youngsters will be taught in schools and for other careers?

I have a suspicion that many shipowners may want to pay lip-service to requirements, and be reluctant to offer anything but the necessary cash for bringing in youngsters and training them, let alone keeping them. Ship managers will bear the brunt of this, especially if, as I suspect, the role of the ship manager in the future will grow and evolve.

I am British and went to sea as the sun set on an era of British merchant navy officers.  Today seafarers are trained from an array of countries, not just the develped ones, but as these countries see increased economic opportunity and affluence, so their own Generation Alpha will have increased expectations.

And no, to end this piece, the unmanned ship is not the answer here. I am talking about a decade when vessels that have only recently been built, and those likely built in the next few years, are in the water. The regulatory framework is not inplace for international unmanned ships, so crews will still be needed for some time to come. I am talking about the transition.

Thought needs to start on how to get the Alphas afloat.

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