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Virtual Marine Unveils New Integrated Simulation Training Solution for Ferry Industry

Published: September 18, 2023

September 18, 2023, Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA – Newfoundland and Labrador-based Virtual Marine will unveil a new simulation training solution for emergency crews responsible for rescue boat and marine evacuation system operations at the upcoming Canadian Ferry Association Conference and Exhibition September 18th in Vancouver. The new technology represents the realization of a new vision in emergency management training for the global ferry industry.

BC Ferries has purchased 12 virtual simulation training units able to train crew on the company’s rescue craft, davit launch systems and marine evacuation systems. Modeling of the coastal area databases covering BC Ferries main terminals and routes give users a near real training environment any time of day or night and in all weather conditions possible.

At the heart of the system is Virtual Marine’s proven rescue boat simulator, together with new custom launch and recovery configurations. One of the key innovations is the development of what is believed to be the world’s first marine evacuation system (MES) simulator, enabling realistic procedural training for both chute and slide type MES systems.

Captain Jan Brockhausen, BC Ferries’ Director of Fleet Technology and Human Performance said, “Our objective was to improve the safety and competency of our workers in what can be a very challenging and stressful environment. The risk of injury resulting from live boat launches was something we knew we had to change and so our focus with this initiative was to improve maritime safety while maintaining our compliance with regulatory standards.”

Virtual Marine’s VP Engineering, Robert Rumbolt, said, “The BC Ferries project has been one of the most challenging and rewarding technical achievements in our corporate history. The level of integration of hardware and software enabling team training for rescue boat, marine evacuation system and davit control operators is unprecedented in the industry. We worked closely with BC Ferries to model various ferries in the fleet providing for numerous rescue boats and MES combinations. Our entire team rallied around this project and we are delighted to have helped BC Ferries achieve its vision.”

The simulation trainers are all supplied in trailers, allowing BC Ferries to take training where required. The delivery includes a total of twelve tandem axle twenty-two foot trailers, each equipped with a full mission rescue boat simulator, mechanical winch control station and an integrated hook trainer. An important part of the project resulting in the launch of an entirely new product, was the development of a marine evacuation system (MES) simulator, which included both slide and chute types in current use around the world. A descent control safety system, currently used by BC Ferries, was also modeled as part of the training solution for an added degree of realism.

The new solution allows operators to train for the full range of mission critical tasks associated with launching and operating rescue boats, deploying MES systems and engaging in link raft towing following evacuation of passengers from the vessel. Before the development of the MES simulator, one of the only options for MES training was during the decommissioning of an MES coming to the end of its shelf life, generally once every five years prior to its regular replacement.

Capt. Brockhausen went on to say, “These 12 trailers represent a safer way to train our rescue boat and MES operators as well as their affiliated deck crews. Taking full advantage of our extensive transportation network, we can have these moved around to any of our port terminals, from Victoria to Prince Rupert. We are proud of our joint team at BC Ferries and Virtual Marine. Based on the feedback from our personnel, the delivery is beyond our expectations.”