Practice Makes Perfect

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It has all the bells and whistles.

And four 120-degree mini-bridges. And 42-inch visual displays. And electronic chart displays. And radar controls. And engine room controls. And more.

It has everything needed to duplicate the command and control of even Royal Caribbean’s newest ships in a place where, should a situation or maneuver be handled incorrectly, the consequences are entirely harmless.

The $6.5 million Simulation Training Center at Resolve Maritime Academy in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., was “launched” in 2012 after RCL collaborated with Resolve to duplicate updated bridge facilities on its newest vessels, including the Oasis class, the world’s largest cruise ships.

“Royal is one of the companies that uses simulators a lot,” says Resolve’s Dave Boldt, manager of the simulation center. “They really understand that simulation is a type of training that’s irreplaceable.”

Resolve Maritime Academy collaborated with Royal Caribbean to design and build the $6.5 million, 7,000-square-foot Simulation Training Center in Ft. Lauderdale where staff can practice and refine their skills onshore to handle any situation that may occur at sea.
Resolve Maritime Academy collaborated with Royal Caribbean to design and build the $6.5 million, 7,000-square-foot Simulation Training Center in Ft. Lauderdale where staff can practice and refine their skills onshore to handle any situation that may occur at sea.

The computer simulations displayed on high-definition screens include some 200 ports visited by RCL ships, with all their landmarks, buildings and seaside facilities. As various conditions and perils are brought to bear, trainees respond using controls just as they exist on their actual ship’s bridge.

“Most simulators in the world are generic,” says Capt. Patrik Dahlgren, RCL vice president for marine operations. “This simulator is made up to look and feel and work the same as a real bridge on board our specific vessels. You actually have the physical consoles and all the equipment looks exactly the same as it does on board the vessel.”

Though training on the simulator is serious business and treated as such by RCL officers and crew, Boldt can’t resist including a different aspect of the high-tech training – it’s fun.

“A lot of these guys are junior officers and they don’t often get to maneuver the ships,” he explains. “So they get a chance to be the guy in command of the bridge when they’re here, they get a chance to maneuver the vessels in realistic conditions.

“When they can come on the bridge and practice having a pod failure or going into a port that their ship actually sails into with a really bad current or with a sudden burst of wind, that’s where the real value of simulation is.

“And that’s been well known and proven by the aviation industry (with flight simulators) time and time again.”

Yet the most critical element of working on the simulator has nothing to do with gee-whiz computer modeling, ergonomic bridge controls or any of the other bells and whistles, Dahlgren maintains.

RCL officers at every level practice a long-held component of the company’s leadership culture: Rather than being the unchallenged, sole “master and commander” of a vessel, the captain is an operational director whose strength is compounded by the skills of those around him.

“The captain can be questioned and should be questioned,” Dahlgren says. “The total knowledge of those around him is obviously greater than everything that he knows.

“So it’s clearly minimizing risk when you have all minds working together towards the same goal of safe operation.”