Training for tomorrow

Training time: Peel Ports enrols its senior staff on a range of mandatory courses Training time: Peel Ports enrols its senior staff on a range of mandatory courses
Industry Database

John Bensalhia puts on his thinking cap to investigate the training initiatives available to ports

“School's out for Summer.” As Alice Cooper's 1972 ditty blares out from many a stereo speaker on the last ever day of school, is this really the end of the learning process? No more school dinners, no more homework, no more exams?

Well, the school walls may be no more, but the need to train and learn does not disappear. Want to drive? Plenty of practical and theory tests to get your head around. Flying a plane? Then you need to get your licence up, up and away before you take to the skies. Whether it's the dentist's surgery or the modern office of the corporate world, training is a key requirement. 

For ports and terminals, a wide range of courses and initiatives allows operators and employees to train, re-train or work on Continuous Professional Development (CPD). Julia Bradley, group marketing director of Peel Ports, explains the range of courses undertaken by the Peel group: “We place all managers and supervisors on a MTP (Managing Terminal Performance) course for five days. We also place our people on a number of industry related courses/seminars, for example ISPS, CTPAT, IMDG, IOSH-MSIP and NUG.”

Meanwhile, Peel Ports' managers and future leaders are placed on a range of courses: for example, MBAs, Masters, degrees in science or engineering, and more specific HNDs and HNCs. In addition, Peel Ports also offers the active support of an apprentice scheme.


Modern day

One example of a port-specific course is Modern Port Management, run by UNCTAD. It comprises eight modules for subjects including the organisation and functioning of a port system, methods and tools of port management, and future challenges to ports. The intensive programme runs to around 240 hours and is spread over a time period in accordance with the target.

Mark Assaf, chief of UNCTAD's human resources development section, explains: “For senior and top managers of port communities, the eight modules are run in two sessions of two weeks each. At the level of middle managers, each module is run in a week time over a period of two years that will also include the time to prepare a case study (we call it dissertation).

“The idea is for middle managers to identify issues and problems arising in their daily tasks and propose concrete solutions. These case studies are defended in front of a panel of port experts from the network in order to be finally granted the UNCTAD port certificate. The port training programme exists through language based networks across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. In Europe, we are partnering with ports from France, Spain, Portugal and Ireland based on language requests; French, Portuguese, English and Spanish.”

The main objectives of this package are to assess the current and future role of a port, define user's requirement, master daily tasks, contribute to the port efficiency, be prepared for new responsibilities and multi-tasks, and finally explain the role and functions of an innovative port that integrates the future needs of the port community.


Diploma focus

Andrew Lansdale, technical editor of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers, explains the process behind its Advanced Diploma which requires a student to study its shipping business course plus one more subject from the same list of nine.

“To be able to study the port sector of the shipping industry, a student must go for either a Foundation Diploma or an Advanced Diploma. The Foundation Diploma requires the student to study a minimum of two subjects," he continues. "They must study our Introduction to Shipping course plus one other subject from a list of nine. For the study of various aspects of ports, there are three relevant subjects. Port and Terminal Management has more content about ports and their operations. The other two cover the periphery of port functions. Port Agency deals with that particular area, while Logistics and Multi-modal Transport has more information on areas such as container shipping.

“To assist the student we sell text books covering each individual subject. We also have a distance-learning option which we call TutorShip. This requires the student to work their way through the text book and a TutorShip workbook. For example, for Port and Terminal Management, this contains between five and ten self-assessment questions on each chapter of the text book. And for each chapter of the book, there is a TutorShip assignment which takes the form of an essay which is then submitted to the tutor for comment and instructive assistance.

A common factor with respect to training is achieving the right balance between classroom and on-site learning. A good mixture of both methods must be judged by the port, as Ms Bradley explains: “You need 50/50 of both to balance the approach. It obviously depends on the module and context of the course.”


In the mix

UNCTAD's strategy is to use “blended learning”. Mr Assaf says that much of the material will be available online as a complement to the face-to-face classes that are organised, but technical port visits are also organised in the programme in relation to the different modules.

“When dealing with port terminals, a specific dedicated tour will be organised in the terminals, when discussing about port infrastructure. Depending on the subject, different topical visits will be programmed with the subject matter experts of the port community. Finally, port visits in other countries are also organised in some cases depending on the regions.

"In West Africa, the ports of Togo and Benin often visit the ports of Ghana to exchange experience and learn about different practices. This is also a very good way to promote intra-networks relationships. As an incentive we have also organised internship in our port partners for the best participants (highest scores).”

Ports need to be aware of new changes in legislation, which in turn, will have a bearing on future training. Because legislation is constantly changing, port operators must be on the ball with up-to-date requirements.

Ms Bradley explains the future direction of mandatory terminal weighing and stacking weights. “It was incorrectly assumed that all containers with an ISO size type were ISO container strength based on the needs of ships: higher stacking and more stresses due to roll and pitch,” says Ms Bradley. “Now we are entering a new world with reduced stacking strength which is identified by the size type code but the details are shown on the CSC plate of the container and stated in a way which is not directly related to stacking limits in a yard. The new container sizes and codes will need to be managed differently going forward.”

Training is one of the key ingredients to successful port operation. Fortunately, not only is there a detailed selection available, advancements in technology have helped to make learning courses more accessible to operators and employees. A wise man once claimed that a good decision is based on knowledge, and with that in mind, the wealth of training available to ports and terminals means that the future is in very safe hands indeed.


Training with the modern times

Modern breakthroughs in technology have allowed the learning experience for ports and terminals to transfer online and also to mobile devices. Julia Bradley of Peel Ports says: “Simulation and emulation software in the main have enabled ports and terminals to pro-actively see, test and fine tune operational activities, rules and algorithms before go-live.”

Peel Ports places all its operative teams through RBT plant and equipment training: “We have recently purchased a ABB simulator (STS, CRMG) to complement the third party simulators we use today,” adds Ms Bradley.

Peel Ports has also used BMT's PC Rembrandt ship simulation system. This training system allows for a range of ship simulation models ranging in size from small coasters to bulk carriers. It also allows the user to handle, manoeuvre and test the mooring arrangement of the vessel. A further plus point of this system is its faithful and realistic depiction of the engine characteristics and dimensions.

“Technology is advancing at a fast pace,” comments UNCTAD's Mark Assaf. “In TrainForTrade we are keeping up having developed our own Learning Management System (LMS) based on open source Moodle platform. We also use Wordpress for sharing information and news about our activities. In terms of training content, we have also adapted the e-learning course to the mobile format so that the participants can access it easily on their hand held devices and various browsers.”


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