Wrtsil Oyj: The navigation simulator comes to the rescue

The latest figures from the insurance company Allianz indicate that 75 to 96% of maritime accidents are due to human error. Ship strikes are also estimated to have been the leading cause of fatalities between 2014 and 2020.

Human error poses a serious threat to the safety of the ship, its contents, the crew on board, and has the potential to catalyze huge environmental disasters. In addition, it is important to bear in mind the serious financial and legal implications associated with maritime disasters and the reputational damage that the operator or manager of the vessel could incur. Understanding how and why human errors occur in maritime operations is key to eliminating them.

According to Johan Ekvall, Product Manager, Simulation and Training at Wärtsilä Voyage, poor technical and non-technical skills are often the cause of accidents due to human error.

A lack of effective training based on real-world scenarios hampers sailors’ ability to develop critical thinking skills that are essential for quick and safe decision-making under pressure.

Johan Ekvall, Product Manager, Simulation and Training at Wärtsilä Voyage

In addition, inadequate communication on board ships leads to misinterpretation of information, incorrect following of procedures, poor situational awareness and decision-making based on incomplete information, leading to further maritime accidents.

On the operational level, lack of knowledge of on-board equipment leads to gaps in technical knowledge and results in their inappropriate and potentially dangerous use.

These problems are all either caused or exacerbated by tired and overworked sailors, who have reached an all-time high due to the pandemic-induced crew change crisis. Tired workers are less likely to adhere to proper safety standards and more likely to make an error in judgment when operating equipment or performing inspection or maintenance tasks.

Better training is one way to reduce the risk of accidents at sea, but according to Ekvall, training in a real environment, which is necessary to generate tangible improvements in skills and knowledge, is a challenge, given the constraints of resources and logistics. difficulties. The lack of such training means that already fatigued seafarers are under-prepared for the many scenarios they are likely to face.

Simulator training is a way to prevent and eliminate human error. Ekvall notes that simulator training plays a vital role in knowledge-based decision-making by immersing students in real-world scenarios where they can develop skills under the supervision of an experienced instructor in a risk-free environment.

Wärtsilä Voyage’s own suite of simulation tools provides complex and customizable scenarios in highly realistic environments to enhance sailors’ technical skills as well as decision-making and critical thinking abilities.

A recent exercise using Wärtsilä’s suite of simulation solutions demonstrates the value of simulated exercises in developing key skills for safer boating.

Led by Wärtsilä simulator operator Alejandro Buchacra, participants from six naval schools in Latin America conducted a search and rescue (SAR) operation. Due to the global pandemic, the SAR operation was carried out in online mode using the Wärtsilä Cloud Simulation solution and accessible via the Ocean Technologies Group platform. This allowed instructors and students to book, complete, and revise exercises as needed to facilitate a continuous learning experience. Participants did not need to travel and were able to participate from the countries in which they are based. This did not in any way affect the results of the exercise, which was carried out successfully.

The operation was managed by the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) with the aim of assessing and improving cooperation and communication during incident response between multiple parties. According to Lt. Jorge Lorenzo, Head of the Navigation and Communications Simulator Departments at the Naval Academy of Uruguay and a customer of Wärtsilä Voyage, the highly realistic environment offered by Wärtsilä’s SAR simulator allowed students to plot maps on paper and in electronic format, to send and receive communications and to analyze the difficulties of the task at hand, in this case the search for survivors or signals.

Lt. Jorge Lorenzo notes that the exercise successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of simulator training in assigning and completing tasks and determining future learning objectives. In this case, the exercise highlighted poor communication between the warships participating in the operation and poor SAR awareness. In the simulated scenario, potential survivors were lost as several ships focused on rescuing already spotted survivors, while others went unnoticed.

Simulation exercises are key to improving communication skills, as participants must constantly interact with the instructor and other vessels throughout the exercise, Buchacra says. He notes that poor communication between the bridge and engineering departments can have negative consequences and aggravate fatigue for sailors when overwhelmed with instructions. Wärtsilä’s Bridge Team Management simulator emulates the different types of signals and data received in real time, allowing participants to make the appropriate decision based on the information received. This helps train students in how and when to react to certain situations, eliminating confusion and uncertainty when placed in a real-life scenario, Buchacra explains.

Lt. Lorenzo believes Wärtsilä’s simulation tools are valuable in developing students’ automatic association between theory and practice. This shortens the time the student has to acquire the “know-how” and gives him the skills to better understand a particular concept. For example, Wärtsilä’s Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) simulator offers students the opportunity to practice using different aspects of the system in high pressure scenarios. In real world operations, the difference between effective and ineffective use of the GMDSS system could be life or death. Training in a highly realistic simulated environment also gives the instructor the ability to detect and address reckless behavior before it occurs in a real situation.

Another key element of simulation training is that it facilitates greater critical thinking and analysis, essential elements of safe travel.

Simulator training is undoubtedly the ideal tool to improve the brain’s response to the various situations that may arise on board.

Lieutenant Jorge Lorenzo, Head of the Navigation and Communication Simulation Departments at the Uruguay Naval School

“The ability to deal with situations in a controlled and safe environment, with the added fact that the same situation can be replayed over and over again with different variables, is essential for the trainee to develop their decision-making mental schema with enough flexibility to adapt when conditions change,” says Lt. Lorenzo.

Wärtsilä’s simulation platforms also help trainees improve their technical knowledge by familiarizing them with on-board equipment to ensure they understand and adhere to the STCW (Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) convention of IMO.

One example is the improper use of ECDIS systems, which has been cited as a major contributor to maritime accidents. This is especially evident among those transitioning from paper-based to electronic navigation. Lt. Lorenzo explains that it is not always possible for a student to fully understand the capabilities of these systems, and for newcomers they are prohibited from “playing” with the configurations. Unfamiliarity with the systems and misinterpretation of their readings can lead to ill-informed decisions and negative consequences.

Wärtsilä’s highly advanced mathematical models provide a “hands-on” learning experience for on-board equipment. This allows the user to experience different configurations and discover their limitations or advantages, says Lt. Lorenzo. He notes that graduates entering the merchant navy with simulator training come on board with much higher readiness compared to previous generations who did not have access to simulators. a vital part of safe shipping.

As the digital transformation of shipping catalyzes the widespread adoption of advanced high-tech technologies, simulation will continue to play a crucial role in enhancing the technical skills of seafarers and facilitating knowledge-based decision-making. .

Lt. Lorenzo expects to see demand for cloud-based learning increase, and with security at the heart of Wärtsilä Voyage, the company aims to further develop and integrate its cloud simulation tools to enable full remote access. to every type of training scenario under one platform. Lt. Lorenzo believes such tools will be invaluable for government organizations to assess procedures and readiness levels to deal with specific maritime operations.

The introduction of Wärtsilä Smart Realities is also expected to play a vital role in improving the learning experience. New ships and ports that have little or no user experience can be modeled and using Extended Reality (XR) students can prepare for every type of ship, port facility, or weather they might meet, pushing the learning experience beyond anything seen before.

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