Durban ship handling simulator proves its mettle

Dec 2, 2003
Author: P&S

The new marine simulator at the Durban-based Port Academy of SA became the focus of attention last week when a group of port marine pilots passed a refresher course conducted for the first time at the Bayhead facility.

The full mission bridge simulator was installed earlier this year at the Port Academy to provide marine skills including the training of marine pilots, and stems from the inception of simulator training for National Ports Authority trainees originally conducted in Rotterdam.

As a result of a successful pilot training programme overseas it was decided to purchase a simulator to assist with ongoing training of marine pilots and other marine personnel here in South Africa.

The simulator was installed at the Port Academy at the end of May and has since gone into service with the aid of several instructors from Rotterdam and several local trainers.

In accordance with international best practice requiring regular refresher training to be conducted, a series of courses was conducted during November, leading to 15 marine pilots receiving certificates last Thursday (Nov 27).

A total of 41 candidate pilots have successfully undergone training at Rotterdam since 2000 who are now able to continue with refresher courses here in Durban. Among these candidates is one pilot, Mr Denis Ncwadi, who has progressed to the point of receiving an unlimited pilot licence for the Port of Durban, meaning that he is authorised to pilot any size or type of ship into the harbour.

Newly appointed CEO of Portcon International, which has responsibility for the Port Academy, Mr Mthunzi Luthuli, said the simulator was to be used to create training capacity in South Africa as well as assisting with research and development projects. For the first five years the Academy intends focusing on providing training facilities for the African continent. Tailor-made courses to suit the fishing industry as well as yachtsmen will also become available.

He said the impetus to the current training programme came as a result of a worldwide shortage of seafarers, making it difficult for the ports to attract suitable candidates for the marine service.

“Since 1998 we have lacked a resource pool from which to draw candidates for our marine service. About 80 % of our pilots had left the service and with a maximum of ten years required under the old system of training, it was clear something had to be done. This led to the current programme undertaken in partnership with the port of Rotterdam.”

Luthuli indicated that since the programme began there has been a reduction in incidents that has in turn led to a decrease in insurance premiums. Making use of class 3 candidates (instead of master mariners with class 1 certificates) as a source for marine pilots was unthinkable several years ago, but the success of the new programme speaks for itself, he said.

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