Serco's tug simulator replicates a typical vessel's bridge, complete with authentic controls that reproduce the close-in maneuvering behavior of a tug. (Serco)
U.K. defense services contractor Serco is using a new simulator to train tug masters and pilots in the U.K.’s main naval ports. These azimuth stern drive tugs use 360-degree rotatable thrusters to navigate ships safely in and out of port.
The simulator takes the form of a tug’s bridge, with accurately reproduced bridge controls and 360-degree screens reproducing the typical field of view on a tug. Characteristics from different ship classes can be mapped into the simulator’s software and reproduced for trainees.
According to Serco’s national marine training manager, Steve Sandy, the full-mission simulator, built by Transas, is the first fully interactive tug trainer in the world. It can reproduce the physical interactions between vessels, including the suction effect that occurs when one craft is alongside another and the high pressure wave on the bow as a tug approaches a larger ship.
Although the simulator is on a fixed platform and does not move, these effects are accurately reproduced in the visuals, Sandy said. Serco handles a range of harbor and support duties at the U.K. Royal Navy’s three major bases at Portsmouth, Devonport and Clyde.
The trainer was developed over a two-year period by Serco, Transas and Seaways Consultants, the training provider.
The aims of the simulator, which has been installed near the navy’s main base at Portsmouth, are to train tug masters converting to new tug classes and those conducting annual competence assessments for existing masters.
The simulator reduces risk while saving time and money in the training process. Previously, officers had to learn on the job while at sea, and training had to be slotted in between other tasks.
In addition to U.K. personnel, Australian tug masters and Omani pilots have already undertaken training on the simulator.
Sandy said that training tasks that had previously taken days to accomplish at sea were now routinely covered in hours. The time and cost saved meant that the simulator, which cost around 1 million British pounds ($1.55 million), would effectively pay for itself, he added.
Feedback from senior officers was that, compared to the simulators currently in service, the new one was “like contrasting an Amstrad [a basic 1980s computer game console] with an Xbox.”
An even more advanced version is at the development stage, according to the company.