The latest plank in the ongoing effort to produce and maintain well-trained mariners was unveiled at Delgado Community College recently. The college now boasts a new Navi Trainer Professional 4000 full mission ship simulator, which currently simulates 10 vessels and five ports. By training on the simulator, mariners are tested on their abilities to make decisions in very realistic situations on a vessel.
Acquiring the $300,000 system became a reality through Incumbent Worker Training funds and the combined efforts of maritime companies and Delgado. In all, nearly $12 million in IWT grants has been given to Delgado to train Louisiana workers through all of their programs. The Navi Trainer Professional 4000 full mission ship simulator is the first in the region (including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama). It is the largest amount in IWT funds ever presented to a single training provider.
The simulator demonstrates dangerous situations - such as getting too close to another vessel, or actually hitting another vessel - allowing mariners to learn correct responses in the event of an emergency. Approximately 75 students have been trained on the simulator through the IWT grants, and approximately 500 will be trained on the simulator this year. In addition, Delgado has trained a total of 3,300 students through the grants in over 20 course topics, and 6,800 are expected to be trained through the grants all together.
"The mission ship simulator is one of the finest machines anywhere to train marine operators," said Secretary of Labor Garey Forster.
"It can realistically demonstrate specific problems that mariners may run into and how those problems can be corrected. The partnership with Delgado and the maritime industry has been extremely successful, and we will continue to be committed to showing the business community that we can take their tax dollars and effectively use them to better train the workers in Louisiana. This partnership is just the tip of the iceberg."
Not only does the mission ship simulator teach mariners how to operate in several ports and vessels, but it also simulates conditions such as fog, high seas, rough water, and night and day.
It will also soon simulate rainfall as well. In addition, it simulates main ports across the country such as New York, the Port of New Orleans and Houston.
"The simulator is a wonderful way to test the students to see if they're capable of handling certain situations," said Rick Schwab
, project manager at Delgado. "With the simulator, we can put mariners in realistic circumstances that they could very well run into in a 'real' vessel. It's a great way to make sure that the students are competent to handle a variety of situations, ranging from normal to dangerous."
"Imagine going from a simple classroom lecture every day to actually participating in realistic confidence training," he said. "I had a student come to me just the other day and say, 'Thank you for the privilege of being trained on a simulator. I couldn't have afforded to travel to another port for this kind of training.' It's unbelievable."
Matt Kristof, director of Marine Operations and Facilities at Casino Rouge in Baton Rouge, trained on the mission ship simulator last November and December.
"I think the simulator is the best and most important tool ever introduced to deck officers," said Kristof. "Many simulators nationwide only allow you to train on big vessels, but the simulator at Delgado lets you train on small boats or big ships. That's a plus since there are 10,000 to 15,000 small boats in the nation versus 300 ships. Delgado caters to all ship industries. It's absolutely fantastic. I can't say enough about it."
Faron Chiasson, administrative manager at Crosby Tugs, LLC, in Galliano, said that approximately 20 of his employees have trained on the simulator so far, and he expects an estimated 75 employees to complete the simulator course this year.
"We are so excited about it," said Chiasson. "We are extremely thankful for the opportunity for our guys to train at Delgado. Many of them cannot afford to travel out of state, so this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal for them. It keeps them off the unemployment roles, and the certification gives them the opportunity to make up to $350 a day as a deck captain. They can practice on the simulator instead of taking dangerous risks in a 'real' vessel, so it helps them to avoid accidents."
Captain Dean Bruch, an instructor at Delgado who has piloted down the Mississippi River
and the Panama Canal, said that the mission ship simulator course has everything that mariners need, including the U.S. Coast Guard requirements.
"You're on a simulator, but you're under strain, too," said Bruch. "This is required training in order for mariners to upgrade their licenses and maintain employment. We just want everyone to have the safest ship possible, and training on the simulator is as close as you can come to showing someone how to do that without being on a ship."
According to Dwayne Boudreaux, human resources manager for Marine Superior Energy Services in New Orleans, teamwork is another important aspect of the simulator. Boudreaux helped develop the simulator program, which is a Coast Guard approved course and an STCW (Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) approved course.
"By learning on the simulator, students are able to gather together to work as a team, which is important when running a vessel," said Boudreaux.
"Our guys are completely fascinated when they return from training on the simulator.
It has so many variables like night and day, different ports and foggy weather, that it is just like running a real vessel."
In the near future, Delgado's simulator will give mariners approximately 30 ports to choose from, including ports from all major cities, east coast cities and the open sea.
"We at Delgado believe in hands-on, confidence-based training," said Schwab. "Through the cooperative efforts of Delgado's Maritime Advisory Board, the Louisiana Department
of Labor and Delgado's Community Outreach staff, the simulator project was envisioned as an efficient and exciting method of training for our region."
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