Simulation: in pursuit of reality
Recreating real conditions in a learning environment
Arwin den Ouden
Simulator training is an effective way to supplement real-life training programmes. For harbour and terminal tug operators, it is a way to prepare their captains for diverse scenarios and manoeuvres. Arwin den Ouden, Managing Director of 360 Control, in the Netherlands, talks about the advantages of simulator training and the importance of data.
“As the name suggests, our simulator has a 360 degree outside view – giving a very realistic scenario,” says Mr Den Ouden. “We can simulate any type of tug of any size; including ASD and tractor drive as well as conventional tugs.” Reflecting the importance of realistic simulator programmes, the facilities at 360 Control can be configured for more than one vessel: “We can have multiple vessels involved in one scenario. For example, with two tugs and one pilot station escorting one vessel. And of course, this is combined with the input coming in from our own instructors.”
Practice makes perfect
“Our training programmes focus on captains and driving mates. We start off with ship handling techniques. Once a trainee has the (simulated) vessel fully under control we can make a start with specific scenarios like terminal and harbour assistance, various escorting manoeuvres and mooring operations. And of course if things go wrong, it’s just a click on the mouse and you can start again.”
This last point is perhaps one of the key benefits of simulator training: new trainees as well as experienced tug masters can practise manoeuvres in the safety of the simulator. “A tug is small, has a lot of power and is highly manoeuvrable. As soon as you are hooked up to the assist vessel, one mistake can lead to a major incident.”
Any location possible
360 Control has a pool of five instructors who provide theoretical and practical simulator training. Heading the team is senior instructor, Cor de Ridder. “He is an authority on tug training and responsible for all the content. He is a former tug master, but also an experienced teacher and instructor. It sounds so simple but in all honesty there are very few experienced tug masters who are able to teach their fellow colleagues – especially as we have so many different nationalities and cultures coming here for training.”
A tug is small, has a lot of power and is highly manoeuvrable. As soon as you are hooked up to the assist vessel, one mistake can lead to a major incident
With the capability to recreate any port or terminal environment in the world, 360 Control can offer tailor-made training programmes for worldwide operators. “We receive many requests from clients who are starting operations in an area that is unfamiliar to them. We can map this specific area and create a simulator training that includes data on depth and predominant currents, wave and wind speeds.”
The crucial data
A vital aspect in creating a realistic simulation is to have access to sufficient data: “The more data you have, the more realistic the simulation. This is not a video game – the simulator has to be 1-to-1 realistic to real life to reach the standards required. To improve on this, we perform test runs with experienced captains and use their feedback on how the vessel reacts. And then of course you need the experience of the shipyard – our cooperative relationship with Damen means that we can implement their R&D and naval architectural data into our software to achieve even more realistic results.”
The possibility to include so many different realistic scenarios into a single training programme means that simulator training can lead to significantly shorter training times.” This is not possible with on board situations because it’s so time consuming and can cause vessel damage. Looking at our experience with harbour-based tug training, a captain can be trained in a matter of months instead of years.
”Real-life training is also important though,” concludes Mr Den Ouden: “You can practise taking penalties on the training field all week, but on Saturday afternoon when the stadium is full you still have to get it past the keeper. Combining the two is key – it’s important to put into practice what you have learnt on the simulator. Then we get the best results.”