Timeline: 8 Months
Hardware: Desktop VR
Services: Bespoke Development
Northen Marine Group (NMG) provides technical, personnel and administrative services for vessel owners and crews in the Stena Group, and to external customers in the marine and offshore industry. The company plays an important role in maritime logistics networks and offers a wide network of offices, training centres and strategically located marine storage facilities across the globe.
Because of these impressive naval connections, Northen Marine Group needs to ensure efficiency and correct training of it’s workforce both on and offshore.
It’s seafarers follow various deck procedures that the average passenger on their ships might not even be aware of. An example of these unheard-of parts of naval training are mooring operations and deck safety. Mooring operations are crucial for a secured and stable positioning of a vessel on shore.
However, not many know how difficult and extremely dangerous mooring operations can be. In fact, the mooring lines that are dealt with on board are not the average ropes and if strict caution is not exercised when handling them, the chances of injury are very high and can cause severe damage to both the personnel as well as the ship.
Have a look at this video here to discover more about mooring safety hazards.
Unfortunately, fatal accidents have occurred in the past and seafarers have lost their lives or got severely injured by incorrectly following mooring steps.
This is a consequence of the fact that no physical mooring training is given to workers prior to starting the job. In this sense, the only way to learn mooring operations is practice, hoping a mistake won’t be fatal. Obviously, this is a life-threatening risk that needs a solution.
VR training can guarantee a safe and effective way to learn mooring operations without any fatal consequences. In VR, seafarers can train muscle memory and practice the moves and steps for mooring and deck safety for as many times as they wish, with no threat to their lives.
We created a VR mooring simulator in conjunction with the Northen Marine Group and its digital arm, Aurora Digital Solutions, for the Maritime Educational Foundation (MEF) and Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) to tackle the dangers and hazards of mooring. This training means future fatalities can be avoided while also improving on traditional training. In fact, our Mooring Operations Safety training application is designed to be incorporated within existing crew training. As a result, this VR training solution can support traditional training methods and enhance output safety awareness standards. In this sense, training providers can use this VR module as a training aid within their courses, where best suited in the overall training syllabus.
The Mooring Operation Safety VR training is structured in 3 modules ranging from 10 to 15 minutes. The modules have been created specifically to ensure maximum focus in VR while also not tiring out the user. In fact, if we were to recreate in VR the amount of time mooring steps takes in the real world, the training would have been too long and inefficient. However, it is important to remember, research says that users in VR learn the same notions faster and more productively. In this sense, a shorter training in VR can still guarantee the achievement of the set learning outcomes.
The training is divided in 3 modules:
These modules contain lifesaving mooring safety aspects outlined within the OCIMF MEG4 standards and have been designed in consultation with training providers and the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB). Our VR training app is designed to provide an engaging and immersive experience that enhances learning outcomes in the following areas:
All scenes are based on the AFT vessel environment with models and assets built to specifications provided by Tritec Marine Ltd for the winch, bollard/roller, fairlead and personal protective equipment. Common mistakes were monitored throughout the entire process and feedback was provided during or at the end of the training to ensure performance and customer satisfaction.
Within the project, we created a virtual assistant, TOVI (Teaching Observing Virtual Instructor), a smart robot that helps and guides the users throughout the experience. Some examples of TOVI’s interactions include repeating the current tasks, helping the learner with the VR controls, explaining the danger of the workplace while displaying emotive reactions in relation to the user inputs. Also, with TOVI, we added a hint of humour and sarcasm to stimulate the user’s involvement in the experience. In this sense, TOVI might poke fun at the user or make a snappy comment in a friendly and comical way, making the user’s VR experience more memorable and, as such, the training more productive too.
COVID-19 had some impacts on this project’s development, mostly around design and testing. To solve these issues, we revised our internal processes to be specifically aligned to the challenges posed by the pandemic. These included working and testing from home and investing in new hardware — i.e. a fully integrated motion capture suit — which allowed our design and 3D-modelling team to quickly capture the right animation/movement required for mooring operations. You’ve never seen a mocap suit before? Check out our video on how it works.
Another challenge for our team was designing ropes and how to best realise rope physics in VR. In fact, mooring ropes are not like regular ropes: they are heavier, more rigid and, consequently, do not really move how you’d expect them to. On top of that, weight itself is difficult to replicate in VR. All this meant a solution needed to be found to still guarantee effective training. How can seafarers still learn how to use these special ropes effectively? Our solution was to include detailed illustrative 3d models and bespoke animations showing how to use the ropes and the consequences of mishandling ropes and mooring equipment while operating on deck.
TOVI (Teaching Observing Virtual Instructor), the sarcastic supporting robot, guides the user through all aspects of the training and provides critical assessment feedback when required. All the training data is monitored following xAPI standards.
Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) is looking to accredit this VR simulator when the maritime training centres get back to full capacity. In the future, the project is planned to be shared with UK nautical colleges so that this training can be built into their existing curriculum.
This project was shortlisted for Safety4Sea Technology Award. Read more here.