Cruise ship simulator is key to avoiding future disasters

cruise ship simulatorsImages of cruise ships grounded and on fire are fresh in our minds. Still, we know that a cruise vacation is one of the safest travel options available. This week, safety is in the spotlight as never before with the opening of a new training facility that offers the latest electronic tools available. But while a keen focus on the latest technology is employed, the ongoing program highlights the need for top quality people that can often make the difference between a near miss and a disaster.

Officers and crew members from Royal Caribbean, along with sister-brands Celebrity and Azamara Cruises, now have the advantage of being a part of new simulator training center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Fort Lauderdale. Signaling a renewed focus on safety, staff of the $6.5 million facility cut the grand opening ribbon Monday as journalists in town for the annual Cruise Shipping Miami conference watched a demonstration of the system. It’s all part of an ongoing safety program but timing surely looked to address current concerns of the cruising public.

“This was not a knee-jerk reaction to recent events,” Captain William Wright, senior vice president of marine operations for Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises said of the two year process to get the facility to opening day.

Using simulator training since 1999, Royal Caribbean has contracted with other such facilities in the past but none compare to the Resolve facility, which offers both detail and commitment from the staff to provide a safe marine environment.

Resolve Marine Group, primarily a salvage operation, built bridge simulators to Royal Caribbean’s specifications, allowing for multiple ships to be included in navigation, firefighting, search and rescue, and other emergency training. The facility is part of a clear answer to questions that came from the grounding of Costa Concordia, the fire of Costa Allegra and other recent events.

Still, while simulations can take into account a variety of factors that can go wrong, staff members at the Resolve training facility quickly note that it is the human element that can often make the difference in avoiding disaster at sea.

“The intention is to create situations that truly test the individual, how they deal with unpredictable situations and handle stress,” said Wright. “They are put into situations that are completely realistic.”

[Photo by Chris Owen]