Technology is being developed and implemented into nearly all aspects of everyday life, offering new and improved ways of doing just about anything. One could argue whether this is a positive or negative direction, but one thing cannot be disputed: We are well and truly in the age of 'high-tech' and maritime training is no exception.
Yacht crew looking to advance their deck and engineering careers have always had multiple, high quality training establishments options from which to choose. For many years, the answer to “ where should I do my training?” was more often than not Warsash, with a reputation for setting the standard. Over the past few years however, that spotlight seems to have dimmed slightly for yacht crew.
One theory for this was a combination of other training providers significantly improving, and making the options much more competitive, while Warsash appeared to cater more to commercial cadets than yacht crew. However with their new state of the art maritime simulation centre at the Solent University campus in Southampton, that gap seems to be well and truly bridged.
After an impressive seven million pound renovation, the remodelled Warsash facilities at the Solent University now boast state of the art, fully integrated Wärtsilä equipment and software. There are eight full mission bridge simulators; over 50 part task simulators; a full mission engineering room simulator; high voltage simulators; liquid cargo simulators; on-and off-shore crane simulators; GMDSS radio communications and VTS suites; DP simulators; and four multi-purpose desktop simulation classrooms.
The sheer number of stations and simulators allows increased actual hands on time and feed back, something often hard to achieve in traditional classrooms. Additionally, the centre now offers specialist training courses such as dynamic positioning and ice navigation competencies which become increasingly relevant as superyachts continue to grow in size and move further afield.
One question often raised about the topic of simulators, is can a simulator ever be realistic enough to be as effective as a real life experience? Warsash now offers an experience so realistic, relevant and effective, that it may be the next best thing.
Fully integrating the bridge, engine rooms, GMDSS and EDCIS suites means students are communicating and reacting within a complete virtual landscape. Featuring hundreds of ship models, students are able to engage in real life exercises, with the added real life stressors of interdepartmental communications and leadership.
As a student, standing in the bridge, communicating with multiple departments, as well as ship to shore and GMDSS operations is an experience some yacht crew would rarely encounter in real life. At the early stages of their careers, especially on the larger vessels, replacing a chamois with the helm or the VHF seldom occurs.
Engaging with standard operations, and perhaps more importantly, emergency scenarios is an invaluable experience, now exclusively offered at Warsash. An interesting point is that this virtual landscape offers students access to weather conditions, navigational and emergency situations one would rarely encounter, even after years of real life bridge watch, from the safety of the classroom.
The equipment is undeniably cutting edge, but perhaps one of the most appealing aspects is is the classroom experience itself. Traditionally, a student is dividing attention between the lecturer, taking notes and taking part. Not any more. Here, the lecturers voice, and visuals displayed on the 64” interactive screens are recorded and automatically uploaded to the student’s online virtual learning environment. This means that students are able to focus all their energy on absorbing what is happening, rather than note taking. Information is easily reviewed at their own pace, and even more importantly, revisited as the oral exam looms.
Lars Lippuner, Head of Commercial Operations at the University’s Warsash School of Maritime Science and Engineering, explains further: "For lessons containing more ‘show and tell’ such as explanations of various engineering equipment or demonstrations of chart work, HD cameras are installed which display the content on the screens and which are then uploaded to the online environment, supporting in-class education."
Aside from the learning experience, there is one more factor that affects yacht crew when selecting a training provider. More often than not, yacht crew use their holiday leave to squeeze in courses whenever they can. With that in mind, the new location of the campus is a huge improvement. Situated in the heart of Southampton at Solent University, there are more options for accommodation, places to eat and ways to socialise, not to mention the airport for easy access which makes the experience more accessible.
So, whats next for Warsash? Mr Lippuner goes on to say, ”Mariners require continuous professional development, therefore it is only logical that investment is concentrated at the Warsash campus.” Now that the simulation centre has been launched, "the focus has changed to expanding the safety training facilities. This will see an increase in the size of the fire school and the building of the survival pool.”
For crew, it is fantastic to see the many training providers investing so heavily in taking the learning experiences and environment to the next level. Our education is growing to be more immersive, more specific and more challenging. We can rest assured that when we spend the money and apply our focus, we will be upskilling and equipping ourselves to perform in our roles at the highest level.
About the author
Jenny Mathews is a first officer and founder of She of the Sea - The platform to connect and champion each other towards excellence, cultivating equality, realising potential and celebrating diversity.