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CASTINE, Maine – Maine Maritime Academy’s newest state-of-the art navigation and shiphandling simulator is taking the college’s long-standing tradition of teaching excellence to the next level, that according to the college’s Marine Transportation Department chair, Captain Andy Chase. Installed this summer, the new Transas Navi-Trainer Professional 5000 (NTPRO 5000) is the Academy’s third generation of the sophisticated, high-tech tool for educating seafaring officers.
The system debuted at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year and is fully integrated in marine transportation academic programming all levels of licensure. According to Chase, the system is receiving high reviews from faculty and student users. “With advances in simulation technology, our previous system had reached the end of its life-cycle,” said Chase. “While our previous system created a realistic depth of field through the use of overhead projection, it was unable to simulate full darkness. Our new system is not limited in this way and allows us to provide critical nighttime and fog scenarios that demonstrate a student’s ability to react to confusing light configurations or determine where they are without land references. It’s just a natural leap forward that will continue to ensure that our graduates are trained at the highest possible level.”
The new Transas Navi Trainer improves upon the college’s previous system in additional ways, including enhanced graphic representation of real port approaches and harbors, and an increase from one to two main bridge centers. This expansion was enabled by the conversion from projection to the use of 12 segmented screens illuminated by 55-inch flat screen LED television monitors. The use of screens reduces the overall space requirement for the equipment, increases the horizontal field of view from 280-degrees to 360-degrees, and offers rotational viewing capabilities and virtual access to bridge wing, bow, and stern views to create more realistic student experiences. The fully equipped bridge consoles include the latest electronic plotting and radar devices, facilitating a special feature of the new system. The system allows for the integration of a newly-installed, campus-based Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS), a USCG requirement for graduates. The lab also provides for ongoing radar certification, and Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA). The ECDIS lab consists of 14 student stations, each consisting of 3 flat screen monitors and a chart table. The integration of the two systems enables instructor development of multi-staged exercises, beginning with chartwork and proceeding to watchkeeping.
According to Chase, possibly the most significant feature of the new system is the inclusion of controls for Dynamic Positioning (DP) located on the tugboat command and control console in the new main bridge. The DP controls will enable new instructional programming that was unavailable on previous systems. Current DP course development is underway and will enable on-site instruction, assuring certification for successful completion by The Nautical Institute, the leading internationally-recognized agency in the field.
DP training will equip Maine Maritime Academy students with skills to operate some of the most technologically-advanced vessel positioning systems in the world. Developed to enable precise maneuverability for offshore oil rigs, DP utilizes multiple thrusters to effectively “hover” at sea with advanced accuracy and consistency. The technology has rapidly expanded its reach to include offshore support vessels for rig anchor handling, large passenger vessels, and private yachts, and is a highly desirable ship handling system of the future. “We couldn’t be more pleased to bring this academic programming capability to our students,” said Chase. “It’s at the forefront of future shiphandling and will likely become the standard.” Chase added that the course is being developed by an MMA alumnus, Captain Jim Booth, ’96, a highly-regarded expert in DP training and international requirements for certification. “In this niche industry, it’s not unusual to see an MMA graduate at the top of his or her field. There is constant evolution in ship systems and training, and being solid in their fundamentals, our graduates are typically talented in embracing new seafaring technology.”