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Maritime school gears up with latest technology

Wednesday 22 February 2017

Updating the current setup and complementing the school’s existing engine simulator, it will be part of the most advanced training system in the country and equal to the best of what’s on offer overseas.

The full mission class A simulator and two class B versions will simulate a range of ports in New Zealand and around the world, and all kinds of sea conditions.

It’s the latest innovation that has taken IMINZ from a fishing school at the old Nelson polytechnic offering basic training courses in the 1970s to a world-class maritime training institute.

School head Stuart Whitehouse said simulation had become a key part in maritime training at all levels.

Entry level students can experience standing a watch in darkness, fog or rough seas while student skippers can prepare and execute a pilotage plan.

“For many years the bridge and engine teams have trained separately,” he said.

Simulation covers not only the physical implementation of tasks such as complying with collision regulations and steering rules, but also the management of crew resources on the bridge or wheelhouse and engine room.

“We look at what human factors have a part to play – communication, culture, fatigue – and students get real-time experience managing situations.”

The school can see opportunities for shore-based groups such as corporate teams to simulate pressure situations where they have to plan, communicate and execute tasks, with an odd emergency thrown in to test their flexibility. It’s all recorded for playback during the debrief.

“How better for shoreside managers to get an understanding of the pressures and responsibilities of the vessel’s crew without going to sea for a month?”

The maritime school, a division of the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, is also talking with harbour authorities about using the simulator for pilot and tug crew training.

Whitehouse said the hardware was only as good as the data that goes into it, and development work is underway to input tidal flow data and modelling to enable more realistic harbour entrance conditions in various sea and weather states.

The simulator has been signed off by the NMIT board and is due to be installed by the middle of the year, with a supplier to be decided by a tender process.

When it was in place it would provide “the most advanced and integrated setup in the country”, Whitehouse said.

When it was in place it would provide “the most advanced and integrated setup in the country”, Whitehouse said.

Simulation is embedded in all the IMINZ programmes, from superyacht crew training to qualifying to skipper fishing vessels heading for the Southern Ocean.

The simulator will allow the school to offer officer of the watch training for those wanting to enter the merchant navy as navigation officers.  Students with relevant sea time can qualify within a year as an MNZ Watchkeeper Deck – Unlimited, studying in conjunction with those pursuing MNZ’s Super Yacht Deck Officer qualification, Chief Mate Yacht.

IMINZ also offers training in super yacht crewing and for Skipper Restricted Limits, Skipper Coastal Offshore, Watchkeeper Deck Near Coastal and Able Seafarer Deck tickets.

Its specialised fishing industry training includes Mate Fishing Vessel (limited and unlimited), Advanced Deckhand Fishing and Skipper Fishing Vessel (limited and unlimited).

It also runs many short courses at basic, advanced and refresher training levels, running from half a day to a few days and arranged to coincide with mariners’ shore visits.

Nelson is New Zealand’s premier fishing port and Whitehouse said the school recognises how big the industry was in the local community.

“It’s a hard industry, partners are away for long periods, and that also creates challenges for the training, because there’s going to be times when they’ll be available to come to school, then you get busy times like the hoki season when it’s all hands to the pump.

“We don’t really adhere to the academic semesters, it’s more meeting the demands of the industry and when they need the training.”

He said New Zealand fishing companies were very professional and recognised that with the increasing complexity of fishing vessels, extra training will bring big cost savings.

IMINZ already draws a significant number of overseas students, particularly for marine engineering, with India providing many.  It has also trained more than 360 fisheries officers for Pacific island nations.

Whitehouse said in order to justify the additional investment in the new simulator it will be looking at widening its international marketing.

“We’re investigating the Philippines, China, Saudi, and I’ve got a master plan to get students over from the UK, offering somewhere as a destination to come and study.”

He said the maritime industry offers great opportunities from deckhand to skipper level for people willing to put in the time and do the hard work and study.

Globally over the next 10 years there’s going to be a big demand for seafarers, especially qualified at the officer level.  China’s growth will be influential and there’s a need to look at New Zealand’s transport infrastructure, with the Kaikoura earthquakes showing how vulnerable the country is without a better coastal shipping network.

“The strategy for us is being able to take somebody to whatever level they want to go. Certainly for Kiwis who have been in the industry and want to upskill, that’s what the new facilities will enable us to do - whether it’s the merchant navy, fishing or the superyacht industry, we’ll have a really good coverage of all of that.”

He said he’s passionate about opening up a clear pathway for people wanting to pursue a maritime career.  A lack of academic success at school shouldn’t be a barrier but traditionally, “unless you know somebody” it could be very hard to get a start.  NMIT could offer “fantastic” learning support and had suites of qualifications and worked with industry to get job placements and provide experience.

“It’s that chicken and the egg, you can get the job once you’ve got the experience, but how do you get the experience? That’s always been the barrier for a lot of maritime work. 

“A lot of the local companies are really open to it, working with schools, providing that link and training, and then it’s going to benefit everybody – it will be a lot easier for people to get into the industry, and the industry is going to get better-trained crew.”

IMINZ occupies a three-storey building on the sprawling NMIT campus, which sits on the fringe of the Nelson CBD, but because its courses don’t follow the academic year it’s not a big part of the annual graduation ceremonies and it isn’t well-known in the wider community.

Open day visitors are often surprised by what the school offers and the sophistication of its training tools.

“There’s a lot that we need to be better at shouting about,” Whitehouse said.

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