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Royal IHC and Transnet National Ports Authority, South Africa, Launch Dredging Simulator and Course at Maritime School of Excellence

At the opening ceremony for the simulator at the Transnet Maritime School of Excellence in Durban, simulation facilitators (left to right) Ebrahim Bayat, Thamsanqa Khanyile, Musa Ngubane and Vika Njoko demonstrate the equipment’s features.

At the opening ceremony for the simulator at the Transnet Maritime School of Excellence in Durban, simulation facilitators (left to right) Ebrahim Bayat, Thamsanqa Khanyile, Musa Ngubane and Vika Njoko demonstrate the equipment’s features.

Each simulator is designed to mirror the control panels, technical instrumentation and software of the specific IHC vessel, in this case the newly delivered trailing hopper suction dredge Ilembre.

In early September, Royal IHC and Trans-net National Ports Authority (TNPA), the entity that regulates all of South Africa’s ports, unveiled its newly delivered dredging simulator in Africa. The simulator is housed at Transnet’s Maritime School of Excellence in Durban and is a central part of the new dredging program developed with the support of IHC’s Training Institute. The Training Institute will supervise the start-up of the course, with the long-term goal to build professional dredging capacity in South Africa and eventually, the rest of the continent.

The simulator, which provides a computerized training cockpit for candidates wishing to become dredge operators, is one part of IHC’s “supplier development program,” which also includes knowledge transfer and skills training. When IHC delivers a new high-tech vessel to a client, the company upon request will also commit contractually to creating a program to make sure that the local personnel are well prepared to realize the full potential of the equipment. The dredging simulator set up in Durban is part of the acquisition package attached to IHC’s delivery of the Ilembe, a state-of-the-art trailing suction hopper dredge. 

The Ilembe is the fourth dredge built by Royal IHC as part of the fleet replacement program that Transnet’s Dredging Services initiated, the earliest sale dating back to the 1980s and the most recent a few years ago. The order for the Ilembe was the impetus for IHC and Transnet to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance regional port development, including research and development, skills development, the exchange of techni-cal maritime dredging expertise, and dredging infrastructure development. The dredging simulator and dredging course are the actualization of this commitment.

Each simulator is built to mirror the control panels and technical instrumentation and soft-ware of the specific IHC vessel. “A simulator is a safe way to learn how to operate a dredge, without the dangers that can arise when on the water in the real ship,” according to Nicoline de Ruiter. De Ruiter, project manager at IHC’s Training Institute in Kinderdijk, the Netherlands, is man-aging the efforts to establish an extensive technical training at the Transnet’s Maritime School of Excellence, where dredge operators will be taught about the operation, dredging processes and de-sign of the high-tech dredge. 

“The simulator can be programmed to replicate a number of environmental and weather conditions, sea states and various sediment types that are common to the region where the dredge will be working,” De Ruiter explains. “In this way, it provides realistic training situations without the risk of accidents, injuries, damage to the ship and consequent production losses that might occur if we were training crewmembers on board the ship working at a dredging site.”

Transnet’s Maritime School of Excellence already offers programs in a variety of maritime and port related skills. IHC’s new dredging course and simulator add a high quality pro-gram to this curriculum. Only a handful of such higher education training programs exist world-wide – in the Netherlands, the United States and China. 

De Ruiter describes the course “as a multifaceted curriculum, which is adapted to the level of the participants. Since a certain level of math and science is necessary to successfully complete the dredging course, an aptitude test will be taken by the candidates for entry into the program. The students will start with the theoretical background of dredging, then move to practice on the simulator and finally to an internship onboard the dredge.”

“In addition,” De Ruiter continues, “IHC has instituted a ‘Train the Trainers’ program. Five people, two trainers from Transnet’s Dredging Services Division and three from the Maritime School of Excellence, will be coming to the Netherlands for four weeks to be trained to become ‘Trainers in Dredging.’ They will be taught how to use the specially developed training materials to train the course participants at the school in Durban. In this way knowledge transfer can be done locally and the school can eventually run fully on its own.” 

The dredging course is expected to open in January 2017, and IHC will monitor and guide the program for two years. The special dredging training program put together by Transnet, the Maritime School of Excellence and IHC’s Training Institute will comprise 12 weeks of classroom theory, eight weeks of simulation training and six months of practical training on-board an actual dredging vessel. The first six course participants will be employees of dredging services who are not dredge operators but come from other areas. A separate, different training route has been designed for the existing operators. Upon completion of the course, they will receive a certificate from the Maritime School of Excellence. 

“In addition,” De Ruiter said, “the IHC DOCS system will be implemented. DOCS is IHC’s in-house developed Dredge Operator Competence system, a system used to track the competences of current dredge operators and used as a method to select the necessary training modules to uplift the competences of the current operators. In cooperation with IHC, TNPA will adopt the DOCS system in its organization. A competence scan will be performed and the crew will be trained on the necessary competences identified from the scan. For the current crew, IHC will put a competence-based training program together, which links the training modules from the school to the competences in DOCS.” 

The Transnet National Ports Authority believe that the dredging course and high-tech simulator will increase the interest in dredging as a career and that they can educate young people within the country. They also expect that the course and simulator will become a magnet to attract interested students through-out Africa to facility. 

With port expansion and dredging activities on the rise in other African nations such as at Tanzania’s port at Dar es Salaam, the Tema Port in Ghana and the Port of Maputo, Mozambique, new jobs will be created and Africa should be able to fill these jobs with home-grown talent. Staff can be trained in South Africa and foreign experts will be less necessary. This will help South Africa, and by extension, other African nations, reduce dependency on importing skills, training and knowledge. The African continent has a great deal of potential with a coastline that is 26,000 kilometers (16,000 miles) and more than 400 ports of varying sizes. In recent years, the Port of Durban was the second busiest in Africa after Port Said, Egypt.  

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