Owners can save 20-40% of fuel and increase safety by improving tug masters’ skills and competence through simulator training
Simulators are used to teach tug masters how to operate their vessels more effectively and safely and to practice ship manoeuvring in new terminals. Simulators can save lives at sea, prevent tug-related accidents and reduce fuel costs for owners, said head of Transas at Wärtsilä Voyage Solutions, Frank Coles.
Masters can practice tug operations, learn how to use thruster controls and navigation systems on bridges and manage the crew in a safe environment. “Simulation removes danger and allows trainees to practice scenarios,” Mr Coles told Tug Technology & Business.
By practicing operations, tug masters can improve their manoeuvring skills and enhance their competence, resulting in fuel savings for the tug owner. “If masters go through a two-week simulator-based course, they could reduce fuel on the tug they operate on by 20-40% because they learn how to drive tugs better and safer,” said Mr Coles.
Simulator training is also a green technology, as there are no emissions compared with allowing a tug master to practice these skills on a vessel in real-life.
“They are good for running exercises and measuring improvements in a structured environment,” Mr Coles explained. “Simulators enable more progressive training and professional development.”
“Simulators enable more progressive training and professional development”
Transas, acquired by Wärtsilä in May this year, supplies full mission tugboat simulators with 360˚ of visualisation that, as TTB has witnessed, emulates the real world effectively in high definition. This is achieved with floor to ceiling screens in a full circle around an accurate copy of a real master’s chair on a tug.
Instructors can use these simulators to replay and revise previous “accidents and incidents time and again, so it is drilled-in and impregnated” said Mr Coles, adding that “it then becomes second nature to do the right thing.”
Transas focuses on improving the fidelity of real-life experiences on its advanced tug simulators by improving the definition and software. Mr Coles said it involves refinements “in algorithms and mathematic models” and including additional data from tugboat technical specifications. Transas engineers go on board tugs to take measurements for the digital model. “Then we fine-tune the simulation until masters can tell us it is close to the real thing.”
An additional step in producing the simulation program is to add environmental information, such as weather, ocean conditions, tides and currents. Port infrastructure would also be included depending on which coastal areas tug masters expect to be operating. TTB has previously used a Transas full mission simulator to operate a tug around the port of Southampton in different weather and sea conditions.
Sound can also be added to the programs. “Then we are at a point that it is fairly close to the real thing,” said Mr Coles. Transas has added ice conditions and is developing polar water training courses for tugs, offshore vessels and for dynamic positioning training.
Simulation in reality
Tug Training & Consultancy (TTC) collaborates with Transas and other simulator providers Kongsberg, VStep and Force Technologies to train tug masters. It runs a training facility in Rotterdam harbour in the Netherlands and provides consultancy worldwide.
It offers courses in basic tug handling, harbour towage, advanced harbour operations and escort towage using a blend of classroom courses, simulator practice and teaching trainees on a 15 m tug, RT Borkum, that is used purely for training. TTC has taught more than 300 captains and other officers on tug-related courses, helping to increase tug masters’ skill levels, optimise port infrastructure and enable masters of other vessel types and pilots to get a better understanding of co-operating with tugs.
In June, TTC gained ISO 9001 certification from Lloyd’s Register (LR), which demonstrates it delivers high quality training to meet the required standards for safe towing and responsible nautical activities, said a TTC spokeswoman.
TTC is planning to present a safety solution to LR’s Safety Accelerator programme this year, she added. The classification society launched the programme in June as a challenge to find innovative solutions to improve human safety on board ships. TTC will present its technology for detecting and navigating around gas vapour clouds.
This could be a requirement for tug crews tackling a marine casualty involving a gas-fuelled ship with LNG tanks. The TTC spokeswoman said it had developed a solution for detecting gas vapour clouds for tug operator Kotug, which manages tugs around Shell’s offshore floating LNG production plant, Prelude.
Kotug’s KT Maritime Services’ tug crews and those of PACC Offshore Services Holdings trained on HR Wallingford simulators to practice operations in preparation for working on Shell’s Prelude floating LNG production project. They used simulators at the Australia Ship Simulation Centre in Fremantle to practice towing the Prelude LNG production unit and berthing LNG, LPG and condensate offtake tankers that will moor alongside Prelude.
Fremantle simulators were also used to evaluate marine support for the second loading jetty at the Tangguh LNG export terminal in Indonesia’s West Papua province. Local pilots and tug masters practiced ship escort manoeuvring and final approaches to the new jetty in the virtual world. Programmers simulated terminal operations with up to four 55-bollard pull tugs in real-time and channel escort operations in fast-time simulation. The new jetty is expected to open in 2020 to treble LNG exports from the centre.
HR Wallingford’s simulator technology was used in the UK for training tug captains and pilots of Dublin Port. They used UK Ship Simulation Centre to prepare for the arrival of the world’s largest shortsea roro cargo ship, Compagnie Luxembourgeoise d’Navigation's Celine, christened in April.
Ship captains and pilots used the full mission navigation simulator alongside tug masters using tugboat simulators to determine how the ship would handle in comparison to other large roro ships. Simulators were used to identify the limits the new vessel could be manoeuvred safely in Dublin Port, where it would pass adjacent berths with other large moored ships.
VStep unveiled a portable tug simulator in June after it co-ordinated its development with Dutch tug simulator training centre 360-Control. VStep minimised the hardware needed to run its Nautis and RescueSim products by optimising the software and created a method of packing this into three flight cases.
Training becomes more convenient with a portable unit and allows tug simulators to be leased instead of being purchased. 360-Control will use this portable simulator to train tug masters prior to their deployment on a vessel.
There are benefits for seafarers and tug owners from this method of training, said 360-Control senior instructor Cor de Ridder. “The biggest benefit of going to the customer is that after the trainees receive their virtual training on the simulator, they can step on over to their own tug,” he said. “This allows them to rapidly apply the simulator lessons in a real-life environment.” There are cost savings and operational benefits as crew would be available for normal port operations instead of having to be accommodated at an academy.