Columbia Shipmanagenent breaks new ground by using holograms to innovate its training and business meetings

Key speakers will be able to contribute virtually to group training sessions or important client meetings thousands of miles away, so maximising efficiencies, cutting costs and driving in mentoring quality. 

“The future is already here,” said Columbia Shipmanagement President and CEO Mark O’Neil, as he addressed an audience in Manila as a hologram beamed from the Limassol offices of OneLearn Global, 5,534 miles away.

The very fact that Mark was able to appear as a life-size, 3D hologram, appearing in 4K resolution and able to talk to, see and hear the people who were physically attending the event in Manila, even though he was six time zones away, shows how the technology is evolving, and, according to Mr O’Neil, CSM is at the vanguard of this exciting evolution.

CSM is a firm believer in the power of digitalisation and has invested in this cutting-edge portal technology to not only elevate its training capability to new levels, but to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to environmental sustainability by replacing excessive global travel with hologram-led international business meetings.

Mr O’Neil said: “The equipment we use is high tech but very portable and takes the whole issue of speaker contributions to conferences or business meetings to a completely different level. A fleet director in one part of the world can mentor ships’ officers attending a conference in another, while customers and suppliers can have more intuitive and interactive meetings without having to step on a plane and fly thousands of miles to a meeting. This is ‘tomorrow’s world’ happening today and we are delighted to be able to make it a reality.”

The hologram was able to happen thanks to technology developed by the Los Angeles-based company PORTL, which has worked with CSM for over a year perfecting the deliverable to fit the specific needs of the client. Mark O’Neil was filmed talking to the audience in a purpose-built ‘capture’ studio in OneLearn Global’s offices in Limassol. He was able to see the audience based in the Nautilus Pacific Maritime Training Centre in Manila, while they saw him standing life size within an eight-foot tall, glass-fronted computerised box. These boxes, or portals, have built in speakers so the hologram’s voice can be heard, as well as cameras and microphones so the person appearing as a hologram can see the audience in front of his, or her, projection.

But as Capt Faouzi Fradi, CSM Group Director Crewing and Training, explained, while the kit can take a day to assemble, it can be easily packed away and moved to a different site, opening up endless opportunities for high-level manager participation. “The technology is exciting, and we will be looking to implement it very soon in the New Year. There is next to no latency or delay to the transmission and the hologram is so lifelike you would think the person was actually in the room with you,” he said.

“But there is a serious side to all of this. By using this technology, anyone who needs experts or senior management attend meetings can have them beamed in. We used to fly people to Manila for £3K plus the cost of a hotel and the loss of a few days travel, but now they can contribute without leaving their country. Even experts who are unable to travel can be beamed in. It takes the ‘meeting’ concept to a new level. And that is what is so exciting about it all. Also, we are delighted to be working with Nautilus as they are a modern, fully equipped simulator and training centre in Manila,” he said.

Development of the PORTL concept could, in time, see smaller, cheaper and more lightweight, portals become available, so opening up endless opportunities such as crew members onboard a ship managing to keep in touch ‘virtually’ with their loved ones, thousands of miles away.

Nigel Cleave, Senior Advisor with OneLearn Global, said: “OLG is delighted to be part of this exciting and highly innovative initiative and the use of high-level digitalisation such as this will elevate the quality and scope of the training and education we are able to offer officers and crew. This is clearly at the vanguard of training technology and the benefits will be there to be seen.”



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