In all reality

01 Jul 2004

In the marine industry, the use of engine room machinery, navigation and bridge operation simulators is well established and provides a range of training options from standalone desktop PC based systems, through computer based training (CBT), to 3D virtual reality modelling of the engine room and machinery.
Engine room simulators, including electrical features, are used not only for training, but also as a means of assessing the trainee?s response to failure scenarios, or changes in the mechanical and electrical loading. Additionally, simulators provide the opportunity to start engine room machinery from cold, and provide as full an understanding of each piece of equipment in operating cycle, and handling multiple pieces of machinery simultaneously.
Irrespective of the complexity of the simulator, these systems need to meet the requirements of STCW (Standards of Training, Watchkeeping & Certification) and IMO model course elements. Full Mission Simulators, ARPA (Automatic Radar Plotting Aid) Simulators, GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress & Safety Systems) Simulators are typically used by maritime colleges and training centres, while the PC and CBT based simulators offer self-contained training exercises, knowledge update and refresh, together with assessment of trainee performances.
Today, engine room simulators are optional requirements to assess competence under STCW certification, with only ARPA and GMDSS as mandatory, although the use of simulators needs to comply with prescribed standards. Typically, the range of competency assessments and training will cover some, all or more from the following functions:
l Main engine operation
l Fuel system
l Lubricating system
l Steam system
l Refrigerating system
l Power plant
l Steering gear
l Main engine remote control system
l Cooling system
l Compressed air system
l Bilge system with oily water separator
l Ballast system
l Domestic water system
In deciding what the scope of training provided by simulators should be, the required competencies are set out in Chapter III of STCW '95, and IMO Model Courses 2.07; 2.08; 7.02; 7.04 for engine room personnel need to be met. Similarly, the DNV (Det Norske Veritas) standards are also essential criteria.
These criteria include the simulation of:
l Physical realism
l Engine control room
l Operational environment
l Machinery spaces
l Behavioral realism
Today?s engine room simulators are able to mimic a wide range of power plant and propulsion systems, from low speed and medium speed diesels, through to gas turbine and steam turbines, along with the propeller and steering gear operation. Linking or integrating these simulated tasks into navigation and positioning systems, where the actions of one system interact and affect the operation of the other, is the general direction that the technology is moving.
The leading suppliers of engine room simulators are Kongsberg, Transas and, in the UK, PC Maritime, and each provide simulators with varying degrees of sophistication. Kongsberg in particular have been specialising in the area of simulators for maritime training since around 1978, while Transas, since its inception in Leningrad back in 1990, have supplied many STCW compliant simulators. UK based PC Maritime supply and support PC based simulators, and CBT training programmes, providing seagoing engineers with simulations of real time events, alarm monitoring and assessments of their response as part of the STCW certification training.
Of course, the engine manufacturers are also closely involved with the
development of engine room simulators, from MAN B&W, MTU to Wärtsilä, SEMT Pielstick, MaK, Caterpillar, and so on. MAN B&W for instance is taking the work a stage further and in Copenhagen are working on a new simulator, based on the latest ME range of engines, and where electronic features of the engine management system that are normally available only on board, are demonstrated by the simulator.
The scale and complexity of the engine room simulator is variable to a considerable degree, and allows the manufacturers and developers to
provide customised, modular solutions to their customers, whether that be ship owner and operator, or training
college. PC Maritime?s ?Full Mission Training Simulator? for instance consists of a conventional Ethernet network of PCs, together with a console, mimic panels and computer displays, to simulate subsystems that include main engine and control, fuel and oil systems, safety systems, tanks, power supply, steering gear and so on. The whole system is able to simulate two different types of vessel, one as a container ship with a single turbocharged, low speed engine, the other as a ferry with a pair of turbocharged medium speed diesels.
In PC Maritime approach, the instructor?s workstation controls the simulation, through a series of exercises across all the student workstations, covering all of the required engine room, wheelhouse and other exercises, that can be replayed, frozen and repeated as required. The ability to create and load new exercises, a range of alarm monitoring activities and, of course, assessment of the trainees? performance towards their certificate, or other training requirements.
As with other simulators, Transas? example of "Full Mission Control" simulators are equipped with ?real? engine room controls at a console, while other systems, such as the ERS 2000 have ?on screen? controls. The engine room consoles and panels provide a platform for operation of the ship?s main propulsion plant, including diesel engine and auxiliary systems, and the electrical power plant.
Each set of consoles is built around a computer, and in turn, each computer is linked into a network, and enables a wide range of configurations to be set up, and provide basic and familiarisation training, up to and including advanced engineering training and troubleshooting.
The modular approach has been taken a stage further with the new ERS 4000 series, allowing the provision of a single interactive training environment, with even greater levels of customisation demanded by many maritime training centres. This particular simulator meets the competence requirements of STCW 95, and IMO Model Courses, but perhaps its most innovative feature is the 3D Virtual Reality Engine Room. This new software module provides familiarisation and training exercises, with system mnemonic diagrams and local control places, as well as essential multi language support. Transas launched the Virtual Ship Simulation Concept at Posidonia in June this year, integrating the Engine Room Simulator ERS 4000, Navi-Trainer 4000 Full Mission Bridge Simulator, including GMDSS and Liquid Cargo Simulator.
Common to all engine room simulators is their base around a network of PCs, with software and screen displays that provide representation of alarm panels, valves being actuated, pump status, tank level indicators and gauges. Also common are the ability to carry out assessments for certification, or as a check while performing simulated tasks in an operational engine room.
In the engine makers? armoury, the wider use of electronic controls and engine management systems provides more software based control and engine room management systems capable of replication in the classroom and training centre.
Consideration of the economic and environmental benefits of simulators ? some of the fairly obvious, and the use of integrated simulator training in an overall transport environment should not perhaps be underestimated. n

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