Yacht crew training is due for an overhaul — it can take up big budgets and time that most crew don’t have to spare, but there has been a shift as teamwork and longevity draw more attention and yachts increase training opportunities.
Maritime training specialist Whitehorse Maritime and tech company Kilo Solutions have partnered up in an ever-digitizing yachting landscape to pave the way towards a new training future. “More captains and chief officers are actively striving to improve onboard training and want to adopt best practices,” says Paul Naranjo-Shepherd, a master mariner and director of Whitehorse Maritime. He and Andy Parkin, an immersive technology specialist and ex-Royal Navy, are providing an innovative classroom that offers more flexibility and freedom. Currently, they are delivering COLREGs and Bridge Resource Management (BRM) training through VASCO, an augmented reality training platform.
“VASCO is a fully immersive virtual reality navigational bridge that permits the development of individual and collective competence to geographically dispersed seafaring audiences,” Parkin says. “It is controlled by a training facilitator using a desktop planner application.”
“It has revolutionized the way I deliver COLREGs and Bridge Resource Management,” Naranjo-Shepherd, an experienced trainer, says. “It is an immersive, realistic bridge environment, which I believe is just as powerful as what would be received in fixed simulators, and I can throw situations at them in real time; it’s amazing how flexible the platform is and how it enables me to pitch the training to the right level.”
The training is immersive through the Meta Quest 2 headsets, plus it offers additional benefits. Parkin explains that “traditional VR solutions in maritime are tethered to high-cost PCs and fixed simulators. VASCO utilizes untethered headsets that have a price point of around £300/$370, ensuring training is accessible to all.” It also allows for longer-term use “for yachts to engage with a program of training over time, rather than just a one-off course, so we can ensure that the cultural changes are occurring,” Naranjo-Shepherd says.
This partnership offers huge potential for remote training. “Creating a virtual environment in which multiple people can interact and cooperate is universal,” Naranjo-Shepherd says. The platform is designed to be scalable, with scope to add other elements going forward.