A growing understanding of the value of simulation-based training along with new legislative initiatives and education standards are helping the marine industry improve the safety and sustainability of operations. New technologies play a key role in making simulation-based training more accessible, as well as improving the educational experience and developing the skills of current and future seafarers.
“Our goal is to enable simulation-based learning,” says Fabian van den Berg, CEO of VSTEP, as the company celebrates its twentieth anniversary in 2022 as a leading developer of a wide range of simulation-based training systems. the simulation. “Historically, we have done this by training students or as professional development for seafarers working in centers set up by shipping companies. Now we are expanding training accessibility with mobile and home products for our NAUTIS maritime simulators.”
According to van den Berg, major shipping companies such as Chevron, which partners with VSTEP, understand the value of professional development and investment in the skills of their officers. Chevron recently launched a new simulation center that includes multiple NAUTIS Class A simulators with separate bridge wings, instructor stations, a classroom with six high-end desktop computers, and a debriefing station. In total, the new training center has 48 consoles and 36 display walls for 85-inch screens to provide the most realistic simulation experience. Chevron uses the center both to invest in the development of its officers and to validate the skills of captains.
“Chevron is on the cutting edge,” says van den Berg. He notes that the maritime operation is keen to incorporate new technologies and has continued to invest in training through all cycles of the oil market.
Technological advancements play a key role in the quality of the experience offered during training sessions. VSTEP has a team of software developers, project managers, designers, testers, engineers and marine masters to create specific and tailor-made training systems. According to van den Berg, systems today can offer greater flexibility to integrate different types of controls and systems such as radar while integrating hydrodynamic models to provide a very realistic environment without the risks, costs and time. associated with traditional training.
“We want the ship to behave as a ship should,” says van den Berg. “Technology helps us deliver the most realistic experience from the NAUTIS platform, helping to drive a paradigm shift in the training landscape. The maritime industry still has much to gain from the use of simulation-based training.
Simulation training is not as widely used in the maritime sector as in other industries. Aviation, for example, has widely adopted simulators, with commercial pilots required to receive 30 hours of simulation training per year as well as before being certified to operate new models of aircraft. In the maritime industry, there is currently not even one hour of simulation training per year, but VSTEP’s vision is to ensure that at least a third of the maritime industry has acquired its skills through simulation technology.
Simulation training can play a vital role in helping to implement advances in ship design and systems. The human factor contributes to 86% of fatalities in the marine industry. Simulation training can help officers understand how their ships will perform before entering ports, maneuvering or in other situations.
“When seafarers place conventional commands in azimuth, for example, simulation training can help them learn the new commands before they even board their vessel,” says van den Berg. “We’ve seen examples in training where they’re all over the place the first time they touch the new controls, but quickly with the simulations they learn the skills to control their ships. They can also test operating scenarios to address sustainability issues, reducing fuel consumption in their operations.
Damen Shipyards Group, for example, is working with VSTEP to develop training programs available to customers as a module with orders for their new vessels. Customers can choose customized simulation training before introducing their vessels to operational characteristics and how best to operate the new vessels.
There has also been a major effort in the education sector to improve the capabilities of their simulators partly in response to new standards from the organization that sets the training standards. ROC Friese Poort, one of the leading training institutes in the Netherlands which provides professional training to approximately 15,000 students each year, has recently developed a new training center with VSTEP. It includes a new professional full sea mission bridge simulator, as well as an upgrade of three console simulators with the latest software and a replacement for older hardware.
ROC Friese Poort has also introduced a new training program focusing on inland navigation. The indoor sector is leading the industry with new regulatory training requirements and is one of the areas where simulation-based training dramatically improves operations. For the first time, a set of rules has been introduced for simulation training for inland navigation. To comply with CESNI standards, ROC Friese Poort has added a new larger ship handling simulator as well as upgrading its Inland Bride simulator and new handling simulations with advanced software.
“The shipping industry is facing a serious challenge,” says van den Berg. “Currently there is a 25% shortage of officers, with experts predicting this will only get worse in the years to come. Making training more accessible can help prepare new seafarers.”
In November 2021, VSTEP introduced a new mobile system, Portable Simulator, which allows it to bring training to customers either in their offices or even on board ships. The system is fully contained and can be configured in just five minutes to provide training up to Class C level. The simulator is equipped with radar, ECDIS, exterior views, control panel and azimuth controls as well as haptic feedback that allows the instructor to be in a different location and provide feedback to the individual at the controls.
The next advancement coming in 2022 is NAUTIS Home. With nothing more than a serious gaming computer, learning can begin at home and aboard ships or even true enthusiasts can experience professional simulation. VSTEP in 2006 introduced a ship simulator aimed at sea enthusiasts which became the basis for the professional marine simulator NAUTIS and now with advances in technology and graphics, the new home product will provide a realistic experience as the first step in the training of sailors.
“Technology helps us make the maritime industry more accessible,” says van den Berg. Simulation-based training is playing an increasing role in improving the safety and sustainability of the maritime industry, helping to prepare for future advancements.
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The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.