‘World’s first’ mobile lifeboat simulator launched

VR Lifeboat Simulator.

What is claimed to be the world’s first mobile lifeboat simulator has been introduced by the Norwegian company ASK Safety in a bid to reduce crew training accidents.

The system uses virtual reality (VR) technology and can be adapted for the requirements of specific ships.

“Lifeboat drills have over the years led to tragic deaths and number of injuries. Now crew members can train without risk, whenever they want,” said Staale Brungot, former captain and now CEO of ASK Safety. “Simulation training gives the crew in-depth knowledge on how to do things correctly before they try it in a real lifeboat. Today cruise companies send their crew to training centres, but with our mobile VR-solution they can practice whenever they want. We are convinced that repetitive training will provide better lifeboat operators.”

Simulators are an expanding part of the training for the launch and recovery of lifeboats but up till now these simulators have been fixed units at training centres. Naysayers state that while the use of simulators can give a realistic portrayal of an emergency scenario they cannot replicate the tensions and danger from a real life emergency situation.

However, the launch and recovery of lifeboats from ships are claimed to be the most dangerous drills that are carried out onboard a vessel, and crew have been known to refuse to take part for fear of injury, ultimately missing out on important safety lessons.

The ASK Safety VR-lifeboat simulator allows the users to familiarise themselves with the lifeboat and its launch and recovery system and to train on the safe procedures for lowering, hoisting and hook release. The operator can freely walk around within the virtual reality world and test all functions including the embarkation of passengers, and the operation of the lifeboat at sea.

Virtual reality gives the user a full 360 degree view, which helps to make the training extremely realistic. The instructor can change prevailing sea state, the visibility and they can toggle between day and night modes, which all helps to add to the realism of the operation for the users. All this can be done by using an app on a mobile phone.

The hardware supplied with the system consists of a laptop computer, a VR headset and a joystick or hand controller. The operator can communicate with the instructor during the training and it is also possible to have multi-users taking part and the interaction is similar to that experienced by today’s online gamers.

The simulator also has a scenario where the operator can embark passengers correctly inside the lifeboat during a general alarm. Various ship conditions can also be introduced including oil burning on the water and the ship having a 20° heel. Realistic sounds are also included.

Ship owners can get tailored solutions that include the simulation of the same type of lifeboat and davit fitted to the ship, which is particularly relevant to cruise ship companies where crews may interchange between vessels at short notice. “You can’t get more realistic training without performing live lifeboat drills,” said Brungot, adding that the mobile platform means the training can be performed anywhere.

ASK Safety is now establishing a training center in Cape Canaveral for STCW certification of seafarers. Safety training using VR-technology will be a vital part of the center and the training courses.

The VR lifeboat simulator was developed in cooperation with the Norwegian company Morild Interaktiv.