New ASD Tug and offshore Simulator training facility ‘360-control’ proves popular 360-control
A true centre of excellence in the port of Amsterdam
360-Control is a new tug and offshore simulator centre based in IJmuiden, near Amsterdam, which is believed to be one of very few in the world where training is provided on a completely realistic ASD simulator with a true, 360° field of view and this is combined with practical training on board a vessel.
Being based at the entrance to the port of Amsterdam, participants on the courses can literally step outside of the training centre onto a working ASD tug.
Menthe de Jong, 360-Control General Manager, who is an experienced simulator training manager but who has also sailed as a nautical officer, says: “This centre is truly unique. Our largest simulator has the complete 360° view and this is coupled with a very realistic environment based on the dimensions of an actual tugboat. When looking out of the windows of the simulator it is the same as being on a tug. And then the real beauty is that we can literally bring tugs alongside, by our door, and the trainees can step on board and put their simulator training to use straight away. The theory is then put directly into practice.”
Exact dimensions of an ASD tug
Officially opened in June last year, the facility has three simulators but the largest is built as an exact replica of the Damen ASD Tug 2810/3212. Rather than looking out on rectangle simulator screens the simulator’s view is a mirror image of a tug’s window.
Training can be provided for complete novices or experienced captains. Leading companies such as Svitzer, Iskes Towage & Salvage and ship delivery and crewing service company Redwise are all customers. In just six months the facility has seen trainees from all over the world – from Ghana, Cyprus, Kuwait, Germany and Libya to name a few.
All three simulators use the technology from renowned simulation company VSTEP. The simulators include a 360° NAUTIS Full Mission Tug Simulator and a 120° NAUTIS Trainer to facilitate realistic training of tug & OSV handling and manoeuvring. “This is a big advantage for our clients. The simulations are more detailed and have much better graphics than most simulators. VSTEP is an absolute specialist and has some 50 people working on simulation technology alone.”
Highly detailed maritime environment
“The simulators have identical controls to the real vessel, so it doesn’t feel like being in a simulator.” Indeed, Mr De Jong stresses, certainly participants take it very seriously and the experienced captains especially get very competitive. This highlights that they easily immerse themselves into the scenario. It is as if they were sailing their own tug rather than being on a training exercise. All weather conditions can be simulated such as wind, rain, high waves, strong currents and reduced visibility in fog, when the vessel can work in low visibility of just 30m. It can combine wind and swell, 4.5 knots of current with a wind force 8 etc. to really test the skills of the captain.
Training scenarios are almost limitless. Clients typically request a specific scenario and participants usually attend for three to five days. (And the writer would add that the simulator is so realistic that those of us who aren’t very good sailors start to feel travel sickness setting in!)
360-Control sets up the same scenario on one or all three of the simulators so groups of up to five can all be involved in the one scenario. Exercise scenarios can for example, include a vessel and two tugs (one at the stern and one at the bow). An Instructor Station is also installed to provide total instructor control during exercises and the exercise and the participants can be recorded if required for debriefing purposes.
Local port conditions
The national navigational and maritime laws of the country could be implemented in the training scenarios, together with the rules and regulations specific to each port. For example, in ports there are sometimes rules about operating in reduced visibility. Tugs may have to sail in dense fog because an approaching ship requires assistance. Many captains have only limited experience in heavy fog therefore simulator training offers the possibility to train under these conditions. The simulator scenarios can take into account how the local pilots sail; do they prefer push-pull, do port operators work on long lines etc.
And crucially, even though participants may have many years experience working on tugs, they may not have worked on ASD tugs, which are very different. It is also possible to have the view from the bridge or a ‘bird’s eye’ view overseeing the vessel.
Basic training includes sailing and manoeuvring, the free sailing tug, taking it completely starboard, port to starboard, coming alongside, mooring/unmooring and operating in confined spaces, sidestepping etc. And then if the trainees pass the basic exams they continue on a vessel and then go to the advanced courses, where they learn different towing and assisting methods, how to approach a ship, interaction effects and more about towing forces. “It is interesting for participants who have been sailing 10 to 20 years because even though they are very good captains they don’t necessarily know all the manoeuvring options of an ASD tug. We can offer many possibilities of doing the same manoeuvre but perhaps in a more efficient and safe way.”
Sailing more efficiently
“Some may not be sailing as efficiently or effectively as they can. Of course, they can learn how to reduce fuel but it is also about anticipating the next step.”
Companies often send their experienced captains to train them in handling emergency scenarios. “Obviously you hope that they are never in these situations in reality but it is a way to experience them in a safe environment.”
Menthe de Jong is hopeful that the three simulators will be joined by another 360° Full Mission Tug Simulator in the short term. This would make it possible to train on even more models including Offshore Supply Vessels, Fast Crew Suppliers, Anchor Handling Tugs and SAR vessels, as well as carrying out ship-to-ship transfers.
Although the simulator centre is owned by Damen and Iskes Towage & Salvage, and they regularly train their crews there, it is a completely independent operating company.
Highly experienced training instructors are from all different maritime backgrounds and their expertise is combined with input from Damen and Iskes Towage & Salvage, making the facility a true Centre of Excellence.