The UK's first full active escort tug simulator is to be installed on Merseyside. The Polaris(tm) System, manufactured by Kongsberg Maritime Ship Systems AS, allows tug captains to learn how to escort large ships in a completely safe, simulated environment.
The escort tug simulator-training facility is an enhancement of the 360* ship's bridge simulator at Birkenhead-based Lairdside Maritime Centre, which is the only one of its kind in the UK. It is expected to be fully in service by November.
The £50,000 project has been jointly funded by Shell UK Ltd, Svitzer Marine and Wirral Waterfront, a single Regeneration Budget Initiative funded by the North West Development Agency.
It will see the introduction of a 120* full mission ship's bridge simulator fitted with Z-Drive controllers and detailed tug models which will link to two further bridge simulators. This will allow complete communication and interaction between the tug, pilot and ship team and will enable tug captains to rehearse active escort towage and berthing of oil tankers in total safety.
Phil Davies, Director of the Lairdside Maritime Centre says
, "We are delighted to be working on this project, which will offer safe and intensive training for pilots and tug captains. Not only will it raise the profile of the centre here on Merseyside, but it will also allow us to attract further delegates from around the UK and from overseas."
The enhanced simulator training will allow the centre to further develop its bridge team management training by creating a completely realistic experience for the captain of the tug, the port control centre and the ship's master and pilot. The addition of the tug bridge will allow simultaneous training of ship/pilot and tug personnel complete with ship/tug human interaction/team work factors. In particular this will make escort towing training, including emergency response manoeuvres, available in the UK for the first time. Up to now this particular aspect of simulator training has only been available in the Netherlands.
Initially the simulator tug model will be a twin azimuth stern drive tug with towing winch forward and bollard pull of 120 tonnes. Dimensions of the tug are; length 42.7m, beam 12.5m and draught 4.9m. Over time the centre will be able to create new models of differing powers and sizes.
In the simulator bridge the tug azimuth thruster controls will be located to port and starboard of the manoeuvring console where they can be comfortably operated simultaneously by the tug master, using left and right hands respectively, and with similar manipulation as used on the real tug. Therefore the techniques learned/practised in the simulator are directly transferable to the real tug.
George Franklin, marine manager at Shell's Stanlow refinery, says, "The new upgraded facility will not only provide an important training and competence development tool for the key players involved in the safe passage of tankers bound for Shell's Tranmere Oil Terminal, but will also contribute towards enhanced risk management on the Mersey River."
Svitzer Marine Limited, one of the largest towage companies in the UK and a member of the AP Moller Group
of companies, is another of the key funders in this project. Managing director, Stuart McNiven, says, "Safety is paramount in the Svitzer Marine organisation and any project which enhances safety of marine operation is deserving of our support. We are proud to support this initiative in one of our key ports."
The commission of the enhancements to the simulator is also a further example of the increasing collaboration between the public and private sector in this thriving market. The Lairdside Maritime Centre is a member of Mersey Maritime, the umbrella organisation established to market the region's 500 maritime companies and promote excellence in training and education.