With the maritime industry maintaining its globally competitive status in both foreign and local sectors, it is but just for all maritime academic institutions to produce graduates who are at par with the requirements of every shipping company and could best other maritime institutions around the world.
The Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific or MAAP is a world-class maritime academy; hence, it is equipped with up to date facilities in compliance with the requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch-keeping for Seafarers (STCW). Strides are being made in the realm of education to produce the quality of cadets mentioned by the Academy’s mission. The Academy’s faculty is packed with stellar educators and maritime instructors who are masters in their own line of profession and field. Knowing that experience is the best tool in teaching, MAAP didn’t stop there. It provided its cadets with state-of-the-art simulators for them to have a clearer mind set of what they have studied in their courses.
With this, MAAP’s Department of Academics, led by the Dean of Academics together with MAAP Simulator Center (MSC) Director, successfully initiated the Integrated Simulator Training last July 10-12, 2015. Its objective is to make the midshipmen aware of their job onboard and be able to apply what they have learned. These exercises, conducted beyond academic hours for practical reason, intend to gauge the knowledge of deck and engine cadets on the application of the theoretical information they have acquired in their respective academic instructions.
During their tour of duty, the deck midshipmen prepare a passage plan, take the fix position by all available means, correct compass error, record in the logbook, observe watch keeping duties as per STCW Part A Chapter VIII section A-VIII/2, handle and manoeuvre the ship and apply collision avoidance, make safety rounds and anchoring.
For engine midshipmen, they perform watch keeping that includes taking over/handing over of the watch, record keeping, monitoring of equipment (routine), responding to alarms, and troubleshooting.
The contributions of simulation exercises to the academic inculcation of the cadets are inestimable and convey many advantages to them. Firstly, the cadets will understand wholly the fundamental operation and usage of the equipment in either the bridge or the engine room control. Knowing the functionality of such equipment, the cadets can fully practice convenient usage of the said equipment either through the guidance of the faculty-in-charge or through discovery by practicing fundamental principles in such simulator.
Also, simulators train MAAP cadets to evaluate circumstances under a controlled environment where they are to respond to different conditions. This setup immerses the cadets to a wide variety of terrains, situations and scenarios that are manipulated by their instructors. These different circumstances are scenarios that may be faced by the cadets in an actual voyage in the high seas. With this, it makes the cadets securely confident and used to situations where difficulty may arise due to pressures in the environment, nature and any other external forces. These simulator exercises will make the cadets more confident to face the challenges of a future merchant marine officer.
Simulator integration allows the cadets who have not gone to shipboard training to experience the routine onboard. Watch schedules are being arranged on a weekend from 1800H Friday to 1200H Sunday and are comprised of three teams for both Deck and Engine. First class midshipmen act as Captains and underclassmen play other specific roles like Officer of the Watch, helmsman and lookout for deck. For engine department, first class midshipmen act as the Chief Engineer while underclassmen play the other engineer roles. This allows the first class midshipmen to practice their leadership and at the same time raise the situational awareness of the underclass men in such environment.
Exercises are designed to include departure in port with undocking, and dropping off pilot until Start of Sea Passage. For arrival in port, bridge teams start from channelling until dropping anchor. Also, outward communication with port controls, pilots, etc. is being practiced. MAAP deck and engine simulators have features so they can be integrated with each other, thus, communication and interaction between Bridge team and Engine Room team during manoeuvring, which is one of the critical operations onboard, is also enhanced.
The usage of these simulators brings the cadets to a virtual environment where they can improve their skills without the consequences of failing the operation. With such, the cadets can think and evaluate clearly the situation where they are in. This addresses the issue of human error usually occurring due to the unfamiliarity of the officer with the situation. That is why simulators give MAAP cadets a huge leap in preparation for their maritime career due to the fact that they are practiced to adapt to such situations that they may eventually face onboard their vessels in the future. As such, these cadets are honed to react confidently under pressure and stress.
Also, MAAP has this simulator that sits on top of a hydraulic lift system that reacts to the user inputs and events. When the cadet steers the vessel, the module turns and tilts accordingly to provide realistic feedback. Also, if the instructor designs the exercise to be a rough ride, the simulator adjusts to such instructions and makes the bridge roll heavily. With this, cadets are able to build themselves with the situation in order for them to react in the best way possible.
Also, these simulators pave the way for cadets to try things that they could never try in the actual setting on their vessels. It gives the cadets leeway to learn more strategies in manoeuvring the ship, in ballasting the ship or in any simulation therein.
In fact, cadets and even instructors who are running the exercises have a positive feedback on the said integration program. After the debriefing, they are given feedback forms so they can write comments and suggestions as to how the said program can be improved.
"The simulator exercise is very helpful to us first class men as it recalls our time during our shipboard training. The integrated training exercise helps us impart our experience to our underclass about what we did during our shipboard training and also what to teach them about daily routine work," said one first class midshipman in his feedback form.
The most important reasons on using simulators prior to shipboard training or prior to the cadets’ graduation are the reduction of mistakes due the reaction of the cadets to situational events, the safety of the cadet in performing such, and the gain of confidence with the kind of situation they are in.
A second class midshipman, someone who has not gone onboard yet, was also fascinated. He said, "During the simulation in departure and arrival, I felt like it is the actual scenario. It is good to experience these situations because departure and arrival situations are very critical on board the ship. I was able to perform the exercise well as the First Assistant Engineer with the assistance of our team."
By the same token, virtual driving simulations on air craft are used to train pilots on the basics before allowing them to operate the real deal. Same thing holds true for the cadets here in MAAP, they first learn the theoretical side of the matter. By then, they apply it to these simulators for them to analyze and dig deeper to the concept of such operation and eventually, master and confidently operate the equipment.
"Our bridge team encountered problems and (equipment) malfunctions. Our instructors taught us the things we should know once trouble happens during our duty. This program helps us to be more aware of the situation that we will encounter once we are on duty on board," said one third class midshipman.
Also, this program promotes camaraderie between cadets. As one fourth class man says, "During the integration, I enjoyed working with my seniors, and knowing and learning what really happens inside the engine room. Also, I was able to execute synchronizing diesel generators and operating and acknowledging the alarm system."
MAAP longs to continue and innovate the integrated simulator training. According to Capt. Philip Caesar Cruz, MSC Director, aside from using ECDIS, MSC ordered new charts and created new exercises. And hopefully, there will be a new vessel type for the integration in addition to the current vessel type which is VLCC, and a 3D Walk Through simulator for engine, wherein a user can virtually control a character with the use of joystick and keyboard, will be launched.
While it is undeniably true that the simulator integration program benefits the cadets, concrete and reliable evidences are needed; hence, researches are being conducted to document the usability, effectiveness and relevance of the equipment and the exercises facilitated in the simulator.
Through its world-class simulators and effective programs to maximize usage, MAAP will surely and continually produce merchant marine officers and engineers who are at par with the world’s best. (by C/M Bacasdoon, Jeric E.)