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Reducing the risk

by Stephanie Barrett and Kristine Hamlyn

Researchers at the Marine Institute are helping make one of the world’s most dangerous professions much safer.

They are working on a system that will help fish harvesters train in fishing vessel stability through the use of an e-simulator. The simulator will provide easy access for skippers and crew alike to train in their own homes using an ordinary computer.

Roy Gibbons, instructor with the School of Fisheries at the Marine Institute, says that the e-simulator will enable fishers to increase their understanding of stability concepts in an interactive learning environment.

“Essentially, this DVD-based electronic learning tool will allow fishers to input data into the program to electronically build a vessel of similar design and characteristics to their own and learn the subject of stability in a game like environment,” he said. “The program will actually simulate the various conditions of stability encountered by a fishing vessel.”

The concept for an e-simulator for fishing vessel safety was proposed to the Marine Institute and the provincial government by the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters (CCPFH). It brought together fishermen and other experts from Canada and the United States at a workshop. The consensus was that such a simulator could work very well in showing how the main types of fishing vessels would react under different load conditions.

“The CCPFH felt that we could address the unacceptably high levels of at-sea tragedies associated with vessel instability with this learning program,” said John Sutcliffe, executive director with the CCPFH. “We are extremely committed and very enthusiastic about partnering with the Marine Institute and the other funding partners on the project.”

Memorial’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT) was involved in the development of the simulation demo used to secure the funding for the project.

“DELT’s capabilities in multimedia and video production as well as programming expertise complemented the Marine Institute’s fisheries and ship design expertise,” said Gerry Porter, lead multimedia specialist at DELT. “This partnership resulted in a quality product that successfully demonstrated the potential for the e-simulator project.”

The current plan for the use of the e-simulator involves the development of a six module program for training on vessel safety. The e-simulator concept for vessel stability involves using multimedia and computer game features, combined with instructional segments on fishing vessel stability. The simulator can be accessed as a DVD. The visually interactive aspects of the e-simulator will also be used in conjunction with a workbook. Those who complete the highest level modules will be very proficient in vessel stability.