Exploring strengths and weaknesses in professional marine pilot education
Authors: Gesa Praetorius, Charlott Sellberg
Abstract: Marine pilotage is one of the foremost measures to increase maritime safety and decrease the risk for hazards in areas that are challenging to navigate in, such as in and out of ports. Pilotage is usually carried out by marine pilots, who are mariners with local expertise that support and consult a vessel’s master in navigational matters. Their work enables an effective communication with local and shore-based service, thus promoting a safe passage. As pilots play a crucial role in ensuring maritime safety and protecting the environment, training and education play a particularly important role. This study presents findings from a focused group interview that was conducted with five experienced pilots, who also work as instructors within the Swedish marine pilot education. The aim of the interview was to explore strengths and weaknesses in today’s education, as well as to identify potential opportunities and threats. Furthermore, the focus group also intended to highlight potential future directions for improvements of the professional education and training. While the SWOT-analysis was originally developed as a tool for strategic planning in fields like marketing, in recent years we are starting to notice an increase in applications, not at least in Human Factors research. Thus, the interest was to further explore the usefulness for conducting SWOT-analyses in research projects related to professional education programs.The results from the SWOT-analysis show that the training and education is strengthened by the wide variety of practical experiences that the instructors gain from actively working as pilots. Furthermore, the advantage of being able to use real-life experience to design training units increases the relevance of the theoretical knowledge for the trainees and is likely to impact on the overall transferability between training and work settings. However, the experts also highlight that there is a general lack of organizational support and pedagogical training, which may affect the training’s quality and delivery. Furthermore, it was also stressed that there is a lack of short- and long-term evaluation, so it remains unknown what parts of the education are successful and where potential improvements are necessary. The discussions among the experts also highlighted that training is a precondition to become a marine pilot, but that there is need to gain a deeper understanding for traits and competences that shape the preconditions for being a skilled pilot, as well as experience as master mariner is critical, but that experience may not naturally transfer into expertise. Finally, non-technical and interpersonal skills were highlighted as being the crucial for becoming pilot and that there might be too little focus on how to develop these skills in comparison to shiphandling and other technical skills. While the interview was specifically focused on marine pilots, the highlighted strengths, and weaknesses, as well as potential improvements may also be applicable to other professional education programs. In particular, a SWOT-analysis can be a useful tool to start to identify topics for further explorations in new research projects related to professional education programs.
Keywords: maritime human factors, training evaluation, marine pilotage, maritime safety
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