Anyone who has ever had to tackle a fire will know all too well the uniquely panic-inducing sense of urgency such a situation imparts. When this scenario is rapidly unfolding on a vessel at sea, the need for prompt and focused action inevitably becomes even more pronounced.
For the crew on board, the capacity to react calmly, methodically and efficiently — and indeed, to instigate effective preventative measures in the first instance — depends entirely upon the quality and extent of their training. Fire drills are often costly, logistically problematic and can only go so far. The composure you might display in a largely theoretical exercise could quickly evaporate in the chaos and confusion of a genuine fire.
This, in a nutshell, is all the rational justification needed for the targeted deployment of simulation technology. Being able to replicate the complex and compelling circumstances of an onboard fire outbreak in a realistically immersive 3D environment safely places crew members in the heat of the moment (as it were), running them through diverse scenarios and familiarizing them with an exhaustive range of appropriate procedures and strategies. The consequent decisiveness this mode of training engenders literally defines the difference between time saved and time squandered: in extreme cases, the difference between life and death.
Launched at Kongsberg Digital’s (KDI) Simulator User Conference in Tromsø, Norway, in September 2018, KDI’s new K-Sim Safety training solution is a high-fidelity simulation system designed to enable crew to practice, with the utmost plausibility, the practical onboard management and execution of fire prevention, firefighting and search and rescue operations. The training system reproduces in meticulous, three-dimensional detail all seven decks of a 152,000dwt double-hull Suez Max crude oil carrier, and also integrates with KDI’s K-Sim Engine, K-Sim Navigation and K-Sim Cargo simulators as a means of reproducing communications procedures between crew carrying out diverse duties in different areas of the vessel.
“K-Sim Safety comprehensively addresses fundamental training requirements,” comments Leif Pentti Halvorsen, Vice President Strategy & Innovation in Maritime Simulation, Kongsberg Digital. “It ensures that crew know what measures they should implement to drastically reduce the likelihood of an onboard blaze — and are suitably prepared to confidently deal with vessel fires in the eventuality of such an event occurring in real life.
“K-Sim Safety virtually exposes trainees to multiple emergency fire situations, including flooding and blackout contingencies. It familiarizes them with the location of firefighting equipment and emergency exits, it covers procedures for finding missing persons and coordinating evacuation strategies, and encourages trainees to decide upon and actualize the most beneficial response, scrutinizing the results of their decisions thereafter during debriefing sessions.”
Conscientiously thorough in concept and execution from the ground up, the solution meets the STCW (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) firefighting/search and rescue competence requirements laid out in regulation VI/3, section A-VI/3 table A-VI/3-1. (These being the control of onboard firefighting operations; the organizing and training of fire teams; and the inspection and servicing of fire detection and extinguishing systems and equipment.) The solution also includes a fire control and safety plan; a mandatory onboard obligation of the SOLAS convention. The plan, which gives precise information about fire stations, modes of fire detection and available fire systems on board, is sited at specific locations on the ship.
The full-mission simulator within the K-Sim Safety solution is capable of training up to three teams simultaneously, usually configured as one management team and two firefighting teams. The detailed 3D environment of the simulation system provides an interactive, walk-through virtual animation of the ship hotel, engine room and upper decks, with visual models including fire doors, corridors, stairs, lights, cabins, offices, lockers, emergency exits and two fire team muster stations, with appropriate firefighting and lifesaving equipment. Simulated fire, smoke and people contribute a compelling authenticity to the challenging set and setting.
“Training exercises duplicate the process in the event of an onboard fire, whereby the management team assembles at the bridge/safety command centre,” Halvorsen explains. “From here, via radio, the team can conduct and coordinate the other teams which are carrying out firefighting operations, monitoring the situation by means of the bridge’s safety panels and Integrated Automation System, then implementing decisions accordingly.”
As the exercises proceed, firefighting teams with a team leader, an assistant and two smoke divers will be able to virtually walk around the ship, tackling sequences of events which can either be pre-programmed or manually adjusted in real time by the instructor as a means of habituating trainees to the likelihood of unpredictable events unfolding. These exercises prioritize efficient emergency communications between teams as a central mechanism for the reduction of human error, proven to be a major contributory factor where fatalities have occurred as a result of onboard fires. Walking around within the vessel is enacted by means of an X-Box controller. If the situation calls upon fire divers to separate from their managers and deal with areas compromised by smoke, fire, flooding, blackouts and so on, they can do so with their own X-Box controller and monitor.
The solution’s monitoring and assessment system allows instructors to appraise trainees’ performance and decision-making ability across a range of variables. Each student receives a thorough debriefing and can be issued with a report indicating how well they handled every discipline, confirming whether they have passed or failed each individual facet of the exercise.
“As is the case with Kongsberg Digital’s other simulators, the K-Sim Safety instructor, monitoring and assessment system is the user-friendly end result of extensive consultation with professional instructors from around the world, in tandem with the invaluable collaborative input of DNV GL and the Norwegian Maritime Directorate,” Halvorsen adds. “The simulator is, of necessity, unflagging in the realism of the scenarios it puts trainees through and encouraging in the outcomes it delivers. Fire safety training has to consider every possibility and shine a light into every corner if lives are to be saved; and the value the K-Sim Safety simulator solution provides in this respect can never be underestimated.”