Some important announcements were made during the 9th Annual River Bell Awards Luncheon at the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) Center in Paducah, KY.
Leaders from Ingram Barge Company and AEP River Operations revealed that their companies would lead the effort to fund important upgrades to the simulators in Paducah. Upgrades to the Center’s simulation Center come on the heels of significant funding from West Kentucky Workforce Investment Board in August of this year. All computer hardware, software and radars will be replaced and the geographical databases will be updated. The upgrades enable the simulators to replicate light boat work and close maneuvering.
Mark Knoy of AEP River Operations said at the Luncheon, “This improvement to the simulator will put SCI’s training ahead of any simulator in the world—both technologically and conceptually—with direct benefits to our industry.”
Craig Philip of Ingram Barge Company and Mark Knoy of AEP River Operations will solicit other companies for additional financial support for the capital improvements. Their principal co-sponsorship of $1m, however, enables SCI to purchase and implement upgrades immediately—scheduled to go live in the second quarter of 2009. This builds on the earlier Western Kentucky Workforce Board’s grant to replace the simulator’s projection systems.
What’s more, RADM James Watson of the United States Coast Guard announced that the Paducah Center would become a Center of Expertise (COE), an honorable distinction as a top training center for the USCG. The upgrades were a significant “selling point” for the USCG to establish a COE in SCI’s Paducah facility, according to the Rev. David M. Rider, President and Executive Director of SCI.
The Coast Guard launched its first Center of Expertise, an initiative included in its Marine Safety Performance Plan, for the cruise ship industry in Miami, FL in November of this year. It was the first of announcements, establishing several Centers of Expertise located throughout the country. Each Center of Expertise will focus on a specific segment of the maritime industry. Paducah’s USCG Towing Center of Expertise will have oversight for towing vessels transporting cargo in the United States.
USCG officers will be billeted at Paducah by mid-year 2009 with additional staffing in 2010. The COE will serve to ensure safe towing operations along the river and as a training center for matters related to river safety and enforcement.
During the same SCI River Bell Awards Luncheon, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company announced it would help with upgrades to SCI’s fire-fighting simulator. The event itself also raised nearly $150,000 to support Ministry on the River, SCI’s program of pastoral care to inland river mariners.
SCI works closely with river industry companies to ensure that technology at its Centers in Paducah and Houston meet growing needs of training. In 2008, SCI trained over 1,100 mariners at its Center for Maritime Education in Paducah.