3. BROADBAND, THE INTERNET AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
An analysis of developments to date allows a view to be taken that the future picture is an optimistic one, with considerable potential for interaction between personnel onboard and shore based training programs and tutors (shipowner or institutional). The main catalysts for change have been the growing power of the computer and the spread of a global information highway, the Internet.
According to Internet research company Network Wizards, the number of domain servers or hosts has grown from a mere 1.3 million in 1993 to an estimated minimum of 162 million in 2002. CyberAtlas  reported that the number of users with access to the Internet in March 2002 was approximately 445 million, and estimated to grow to 709 million by the end of 2004. A new protocol called Internet Protocol New Generation will expand the current address from 32 to 128 bits. This creation of a reservoir of 1038 addresses should, in theory, last for many decades. Consider also highly time sensitive services such as those that exploit audio and video. The invention of the World Wide Web (WWW) by Tim Lee at CERN in Geneva opened the way up for the transmission of graphics, pictures, sound and video. The arrival of Internet phones and the use of video streams are greatly increasing such traffic. What potential for remote access to simulation training via the Web?
Internet Service Providers (ISP) are installing capacities of 100 megabits per second. Many Telecommunication companies are getting in on the act, keen to sell capacity to ISPs. The 2lst century has opened with a spate of mergers and takeovers of Internet communication providers by telecommunication companies, as they seek to consolidate their position for this growing market.
Providing clear 'data pipes' is one thing, forwarding the data (via the routers) at a few gigabits per second is another thing. As the thirst for greater 'broadband' capacity by users grows, ISPs are finding it necessary to install new routers that will handle a minimum of 50 gigabits or more of data per second.
The Swedish government is spending $US 1.8 billion on a national action plan for IT in schools. It also announced plans in 2001 for a broadband network (defined by the government as a transmission capacity in excess of two Mbps) that will give every home in Sweden, even in the remotest corner, broadband connectivity to the Internet within two years, although this timeframe has now drifted back to 2003 or 2004 . Many other governments around the world are upgrading their broadband computing capabilities in anticipation of growing demands for video based learning services, although in many cases targets are slow in being met.
The increasing installation of Local Area Networks (LANs) on ships reflects a slow but growing realisation by some ship managers that the linking of the total ship to the company LAN ashore can increase interaction between both and lead to improved efficiency, safety and cost effectiveness. However, in planning such links, it should be borne in mind that there are no convenient fibre-optic lines out to the ship and the use of the Internet, e-mail and data transfer services is going to be very dependent upon the satellite segment of the network architecture for the foreseeable future. This, of course, means higher costs initially until the growing volume of traffic brings down the unit price of audio, video and data transmission. This influences thinking in the industry as to the potential use of computing and information technology (IT) in the future.
The foregoing developments are but the tip of the iceberg. Why not a maritime based cyber gateway for seafarers on ships or persons in the maritime industry ashore? There are no real technical impediments to simulation training in the workplace or at home after work. The main problem is one of access to broadband capability and cost at present. Such training activity could be run by a consortia of maritime partners bringing industry and education services together. What is clear from a recent survey of global MET institutions  is that the maritime education and training community needs to face up to challenge posed by this new cyberspace world.
In regard to broadband, it is worth remembering that broadcast television transmits 30 frames per second, each frame contains about one Mb. From a memory storage point of view, eighty CD-ROMs would be needed to hold an hour long movie! Using MPEG-2 data compression techniques it all fits onto one CD-ROM. A DVD can hold a full length movie of several hours.
If the 'Teledesic' project gets off the ground in 2005, then the opportunities to utilize high speed graphics, streaming video. Internet based communications and interactive links between ship and simulation centre ashore will rise dramatically as costs come down. The possibility of using simulation for training onboard ship or at home, away from the MET simulation centre, will be a step closer to reality.
The evidence is clear. World-wide computer networks and communication links are expanding and growing at an extremely fast pace. The potential of systems to handle data and communications quickly, cheaply and securely is not in doubt. New services in the next few years will provide greater bandwidth to allow expansion of audio, video and multimedia transmission capability as well as more cost effective links for maritime education and training purposes. The trend toward using CBT assessment packages as part of the recruitment process, and for use to establish continuing proficiency onboard, is also becoming more common.
4. SIMULATION TRAINING AT A DISTANCE ANYWHERE, ANYTIME
In meeting the new requirements for standards of training, competence and quality assurance imposed upon them by the ISM Code and STCW 95, shipowners are increasingly looking for new means to assure themselves that the officers and ratings, that they hire across the globe, do indeed meet standards.
It is clear that many shipowners and operators are planning for a future increasingly centred around the operation of the 'IT office at sea'. By implication, employers will be seeking to retrain or employ new officers and crew who have a capability to use such equipment, programs and services. At the same time MET institutions are increasingly developing the capacity to utilise computer-based technology for education and training delivery. We have also witnessed in recent years the growth in workstation based simulator training devices.
The maritime industry has also been using marine simulation in limited ways since the late 1950s, but its acceptability has been somewhat tardy and its use for assessment purposes even less well accepted. As Waters  pointed out, "the collective attitude of maritime administrations to the use of simulators appeared to be, at best, ambivalent", a situation still existing in many minds today. Making marine simulator training mandatory for seafarers has always been a troublesome issue. Despite many perceived benefits of simulator training, delegates revising the STCW 1978 Convention (STCW 95) were unwilling to extend the mandatory requirements beyond radar and ARPA training, a situation unchanged in 2003.
Since the advent of STCW 95 there has been clear evidence of a discernible shift in marine simulation technology away from the larger more expensive CGI based 'full mission' systems to smaller less expensive modular PC based systems of so called 'single or multi-task' type. However, technology is advancing so quickly that the modest 'desktop' or 'work station' computer can form the basis of very sophisticated, flexible and realistic training tools, capable of meeting many of the designated functions and tasks specified in the STCW Convention.
Why undertake simulator training at a distance? What can be gained? Research  shows that many officers are not getting the opportunity to acquire key practical skills for good safety and operational reasons. Simulation, if used effectively, provides an alternative medium in which to acquire these operational skills in a risk free environment. The need to narrow the gap between training for knowledge and onboard skill acquisition has become of paramount importance. Many PC based simulation systems today, for example Transas or Poseidon. come with very high levels of fidelity that allow meaningful training outcomes to be achieved with many operational functions and tasks . The workstation can be equipped with helm and engine controls (Figure 2).
Figure 2 . Part-task shiphandling workstation
The development of marine simulation systems can help to bring maritime training closer to shipboard practices and also allow these facilities to be used to measure students ' performance in a range of tasks provided certain safeguards are observed. By ensuring that relevant performance standards are followed and training and assessment processes are validated, such forms of simulated training can contribute meaningfully to raising practical safety standards.
The requirement of STCW 95, that seafarers demonstrate their ability to perform tasks and functions safely and effectively in order to ensure competence, has been focused on facilities in shore based training establishments. Communications technology is opening up new opportunities to extend the learning and training environment onboard the ship at sea, and many of the methods examined earlier have the potential to be used in the workplace.
4.1 Cyberspace and marine simulation
The word cyberspace is a metaphor for the non-physical terrain created by computer systems, the term being coined originally by Gibson in his 1984 science fiction novel, "Neuromancer", as "an encompassing medium of communication and control" . Within this cyberspace, people can communicate with one another, undertake research or explore the virtual environment.
The technological keys to unlock the system to free students to pursue lifelong learning anywhere, anytime, are rapidly becoming available on a more global basis. Technology is altering all the traditional ground rules. Cyberspace education operates without frontiers, walls or barriers. It is an interactive learning environment, globalized by technology links. It is a concept that can find a ready home at sea as well, in the future.
Seafarers, as a result of their environment, have long been denied access to effective education and training opportunities at sea. Many educational institutions now provide a range of courses and programs for delivery to students living outside of their local boundaries, using structured distance education methods. These programs can be developed and be instructionally designed for the workplace. Ashore, access to a tutor is normally provided by fax, telephone, tele-conferencing and attendance at summer schools. Access to a tutor when at sea is difficult. Feedback to the student can be haphazard and take months.
Despite the disadvantages arising from the 'tyranny of distance' and lack of direct supervision, distance learning, when used in conjunction with communications technology for personal education purposes or for onboard training, has the potential to open up new avenues of knowledge and skill, relevant to changing workplace needs.
4.2 Globalisation of education and training
The trend towards globalisation of business has spread to the international education sector in the last few years. The cyberspace world of education is no exception. Goddard  reported that News International has formed a partnership with 21 Scottish Universities to market and distribute distance learning courses. Sweden passed a bill at the end of 2001 to combine the on-line courses of several of the 39 state universities, with education free for students at the Net University . Examples of global alliances between institutions of higher learning include Universitas 21 (a consortium of 1 6 universities) and the Global University Alliance (GUA). Hardly a day passes without another cluster of educational establishments announcing their arrival on the distance learning scene.
Why not a Web-based cyberspace centre to provide access to part-task simulation training facilities? It could be formed by an alliance of global MET institutions, software manufacturers and shipping companies, or on a regional basis, using pooled simulation resources. Maritime institutions could also offer access to their web based simulation training centre to other trainees, students or graduates ashore. For example, the growing range of simulator software programs in the areas of safe cargo handling, maritime law, chartering practice, logistics and fleet management to mention but a few, could be made available on the centre 's web server as pre-study modules or stand alone units.
4.3 Simulator training at sea.
The concept of a computer simply moving data and information from place to place, and comparing it according to a set of prescribed rules or algorithms, leans on the computer's major strength of being able to process information very quickly and accurately. This gives the computer the ability to adapt and respond to the learner's needs, difficulties and progress.
The same technology can allow much refresher and upgrading training to be carried out onboard, replacing many courses delivered ashore. For the mariner, the opportunity for private study at sea, a service long denied him or her, will also become reality as Internet links become common onboard ship. If broadband links are there, then why not use them in the field of simulation, a fast growing and well recognized training medium? Such tools could also support some of the onboard training tasks to be found in a trainee's Training Record Book.
As a result of advancing broadband technology in the 21st century, sophisticated simulation training programs will be capable of being accessed onboard via Web Education Management Systems (WEMS). Such single-task or part-task simulator activity could be monitored and recorded by the institution (or company training officer) in preparation for further advanced training on the simulators ashore. To illustrate the potential, A.P.Moeller, parent company of Maersk Line, fitted the DMI developed SIMFLEX onboard simulator to 16 of its ships in 2001-2002 (Figure 3). The system is being used to train cadets in rule of the road and general shiphandling skills. A feature of the software is that the training can be supervised by an instructor ashore over a ship-shore communications link.
Other simulation programs, such as 'PortSim' from SSPA could, for example, also be used onboard by officers to develop strategies for pilot boarding and port entry, as part of voyage planning processes.
Simflex onboard simulation training system
|Source: Force Technology (DMI), 2002
At the World Maritime University in Sweden in November 2002, an interactive simulator exercise was conducted over the Internet between the University's Simflex visual shiphandling simulator and another DMI Simflex simulation centre in Denmark. Each own ship was controlled by the separate centres, all data transfer and communications between the ships being made via the Internet. It demonstrated the potential of the medium to be used for interactive simulation training as well as monitoring of trainee activity. (Figure 4).
Figure 4 WMU-DMI Internet Based Simulation