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General News

John Faraclas – Making the Impossible Possible

John Faraclas of ‘All About Shipping’ participated in a group of academic and industry researchers which explored the certification process for maritime virtual reality training. He contributed to a leading academic research publication regarding the training certification.

The National Herald: When did the research start and what exactly is it about?

John Faraclas: The research lasted 14 months (January 2021-March 2022). The paper writing process began in October 2021 and ended in May 2022, going through two double-blind peer review stages, for the extended abstract and the full manuscript.

The paper which came from this research presents an analysis of the demand for maritime and shipping VR and Metaverse training certification, the requirements to be fulfilled for certified VR training scenarios, and the overall certification process to be followed.

The research is based on primary and secondary research with an extensive academic literature review, a survey with maritime participants, interviews with industry experts, case studies on the maturity and readiness of VR training in maritime and shipping, and the presentation of the latest virtual training certification standards from a leading maritime classification organization.

The results present an initial VR training certification process to guide the efforts of VR training organizations to certify their professional training applications and technologies.

TNH: What are the MariSOT (Maritime Immersive Safe Ocean Technologies) challenges?

JF: From the technological perspective MarISOT didn’t face any serious technological challenges. The only challenge was to control the enthusiasm and passion of Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos and Dr. Mika Luimula, who aimed for the impossible to make it possible.

MarISOT integrates in its VR environment advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cognitive, brain, and behavioral sciences to support and predict the training effectiveness based on the state of mind and body of the trainee. Technologies such as hand, finger, and eye tracking, natural language processing, speech recognition, expert systems, neural networks, decision support systems, and others have been applied in the MarISOT training episodes to deliver credible education, training skills, and behavioral data to further analyze and improve the officer’s training and the vessel’s safety operations.

John Faraclas, making a point at ones of Costas Grammenos’ Cass Business School biennial conference at the IMO, London, 2018.

TNH: What did the dissertation supervision involve?

JF: The dissertation supervision was done during the 2021 Spring term at Hult International Business School. The prime academic supervisor was Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos, with me being a secondary supervisor as an industry expert working closely with the student, Ms. Stavroula Illiadi, to provide practical expertise and guidance during the dissertation process.

The student decided to direct her dissertation research on the maritime sector after studying with Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos. She chose the role of futuristic interactive technologies in shipping and the global economy.

During the supervision, I helped the student understand the shipping industry and adjust the research questions and the literature review to areas I considered more beneficial. I coordinated the primary research, identified key experts to be interviewed, and oversaw the dissertation process as an industry expert.

TNH: You contributed to the primary research.

JF: The primary research was the collection of industry data from primary research techniques such as surveys, interviews, case studies, and observations. I guided the student on the data collection, validation, and interpretation and I continued my participation in this research after the dissertation.

Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos linked the dissertation with the project to provide a real and challenging case that would practically and meaningfully contribute to the student’s learning experience. I continued working with Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos for one more year on the development of the proposed certification process.

One of my major contributions was bringing DNV to participate in the research with the certification expert Aksel David Nordhol. This impacted the outcome of the research significantly as Mr. Norhold provided the DNV standards, based on which the final recommendations were developed.

His wife Anny Zade, WSITA International Conference 2014, Limassol, Cyprus.

TNH: How significant a contribution is this research to the maritime and shipping industry?

JF: The research emphasized the need for certified VR training in the maritime and shipping industry. All the industry experts participating in the research were positive about accepting such training sessions if certified by a reputable Maritime/Shipping authority or organization. The cost of an average certified maritime training course varies from $500 to $5,000 with a duration from 1 day to 2 weeks depending on the scenario.

If VR can reduce the training delivery while maintaining the certification, a new global market will be created in the industry.

This research delivers an initial process for certifying VR and Metaverse maritime training applications and intends to further explore the type of amendments to be done by the classification societies to the existing standards. They will address the Metaverse era, which has already begun.

 TNH: What did the COVID-19 period bring about?

JF: An intriguing observation in this research was the shift to a more open-minded view towards VR alternatives, which seems to be achieving rapid growth while saving time and costs due to the COVID-19 pandemic when it was challenging to obtain online certified training.

If certified VR training were available, that would have been a solution. This need has been identified and actions have been taken by the leading maritime classification organizations and societies, proving their rapid adaptation even in unpredicted situations.

Further research can be conducted to understand more deeply the COVID-19 aftermath in the industry. The pandemic seems to be nearly over but what the world experienced in the last two years created the need for alternative ways of operations, so the markets must accept and adjust accordingly.

TNH: When and how was the paper presented? What is the research based on?

JF: The paper is titled ‘A Certification Framework for Virtual Reality and Metaverse Training Scenarios in the Maritime and Shipping industry,’ and the research conducted developed a certification framework for virtual reality and metaverse training scenarios in the maritime and shipping industry.

The paper was presented at the 13th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE 2022) and the affiliated ‘3rd International Conference on Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship,’ by Prof. Dr. Evangelos Markopoulos on Tuesday, July 26, 2022, 12:00-13:30 (GMT-5) at Session 35, which was titled ‘Education for Creativity, Design, and Innovation’ at the Sheraton Times Square in New York, USA.

The paper has been published in the AHFE Open Access journal on Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Volume 31, pages 36-47. The authors are Evangelos Markopoulos (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland), Aksel David Nordhol (DNV AS, Norway), Stavroula Iliadi (Hult International Business School, Great Britain) Panagiotis Markopoulos (University of Turku, Finland), John Faraclas (All About Shipping, Great Britain), and Mika Luimula (Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland).

TNH: What is your business philosophy? 

JF: According to Heraclitus “Change is constant” (τα πάντα ρει), therefore the maritime and shipping industry must be open and ready to continuously adapt to  the changes in society, economy, and technology. After all, modern maritime and shipping is heavily based on technological advancements, redefined shipbuilding, navigation, and operations aiming for total safety at sea, the protection of the environment, and the support of life. Look at the issues arising in the supply chain given the war in Ukraine – energy, and food.

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