South Shields Marine School has enhanced its status as a world-leading training centre through a £300,000 new generation systems upgrade.
Its world-class bridge simulators, on which seafarers learn their trade via cutting edge ship modelling and 3D visuals, now run on Norwegian technology firm Kongsberg’s latest K-Sim maritime software.
K-Sim, a new class of simulator software which allows for best ever training scenarios, has replaced Kongsberg’s previous Polaris system.
However, the bulk of investment is for hardware improvements, such as new screens for more defined visuals, consoles and controls cabling.
Importantly, the upgrade also means the marine school’s ground-breaking digital modelling team can provide an enhanced package of support to clients.
Since the late 1990s, it has been unique in the UK in producing market-leading scaled computer-generated modelling – and its work has carried on throughout the pandemic.
These allow naval architects, civil engineers and shipping companies to test their design plans for ports and vessels before they leave the drawing board, minimising the potential for costly real world mistakes.
Its work led the marine school to be awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize at the start of 2020.
Further improvements to the marine school – founded in 1861 and the world’s oldest purpose-built maritime training centre – are planned next summer.
These will see its specialist VTS software, used to operate its VTS simulators, also being made K-Sim compliant.
Technical and Projects Manager Paul Hodgson, who led the onsite upgrade, said: “Work had been long planned and was expected to run from the end of July to the start of September.
“It was a tight schedule, but then along came the coronavirus and lockdown in April, which saw time open up but a downside in that staff were furloughed.
“Installing the software and hardware upgrades has been challenging but also vital to delivering the high-quality instruction for which we are known.
“K-Sim has given us better and more realistic scenarios, and lots of new tools are available, meaning we can deliver an improved learning experience for seafarers training with us.
“The software is a lot more capable, dynamic and sophisticated. I’m looking forward to it providing the bedrock of our enhanced simulation provision for years to come.”
Initial work was done to increase the capacity of the computer network, with the ships’ bridge CCTV system used for training purposes, and network switches, replaced.
By late July the bulk of the new hardware was installed, and the K-Sim software followed in August, with support from an onsite Kongsberg service engineer.
All lecturing staff also needed to continue on recreating training exercises required to run courses.
No exercises developed on the previous Polaris software system were compatible with K-Sim, so all had to be remade.
There then followed tests and checks to ensure the system worked, and in September lecturing staff were given a K-Sim operator course, delivered online by Kongsberg.
Throughout the upgrade period, the marine school’s Advanced Simulation Manager, Mel Irving, and 3D modellers Alan Mercer and Karl Shackleton, continued to work on projects from home.
They met the new order demands of several clients and also set about converting the files of hundreds of ship and port models developed over 20 years to be K-Sim compatible.