Want to be a better Seafarer? Boost your SA through simulation training

Want to be a better Seafarer? Boost your SA through simulation training

Professional seafarers have one thing in common: advanced situational awareness (SA). In a safe, managed environment you can increase your SA in less time than it would take on water. NMIT has invested in the latest maritime simulation technology. Navigate through a storm. Dock a ship. Prevent fatigue. Leave NMIT prepared for any hazard you may face at sea.

Proactive decision making in the moment

Imagine you’re in your car heading to work. It’s 8.45 am and peak traffic on a three lane highway. As the three lanes merge into one, you have some fast decisions to make. Do you speed up and overtake, or slow down allow others to pass and merge like a zip? If you have strong situational awareness you’ll perform either manoeuvre with confidence. If your situational awareness isn't strong you might speed up then hesitate. In your hesitation you might slam on the brakes resulting in a close call (if you’re lucky) or an accident.

Situational awareness (SA) is your ability to perceive, comprehend and make decisions about your surroundings. To understand "events" and "things" in time and space which could prove detrimental to you, your vessel, and your company. What are these hazardous events and things? Weather events such as storms and swells. Objects such as other vessels, debris and floating objects. Also entry to port considerations such as channel width and depth.

We don’t realise we’re using SA whenever we make decisions that involve risk. People in the maritime industry often deal with potentially hazardous situations. According to Swedish scholar Charlott Sellberg and others, the maritime industry is, "one of the most safety-critical industries in the world". Whether your goal is harbour master, fishing boat skipper or deck watch officer, strong situational awareness will make you more proactive in these situations rather than reactive.

Like the real thing only managed and virtual

Imagine you’re back in your car. You hesitate as the highway narrows, slam on your brakes, and the car behind you hits your bumper. That felt real. Only this time, you’re a participant in a simulation training exercise. The car behind you isn’t real. You spend the following minutes reflecting on your decision with an experienced tutor. You reenter the fray for another shot armed with an expanded awareness.

Simulation technology is like the real thing only managed and virtual. With simulation training experiences can be made and lessons learned in a risk-free manner. Simulators offer opportunities to train skills that are time consuming and costly to practise on board real ships. Simulation technology as a training tool is already in wide use. It has become a vital tool in training Navy and Aviation personnel. The high costs and dangers of ocean or air based training are far reduced.

At NMIT, we’ve adopted new simulation technology into our maritime training programmes. This new technology enhances real time learning and the information coded into the simulation is geared toward boosting your situational awareness. It does this through safe, time managed simulation modules.

Three ways simulation training will boost your SA 

1. Real-time experience managing critical situations

Experience standing a watch in darkness, fog or rough seas. Prepare and execute a pilotage plan. Respond to and manage critical situations. In an article for Military Training International, writer Hank Hogan points out that simulation technology must be close to reality(external link). It must convince your reptilian brain to a radical response. He goes on to say that if motion is not involved, your brain has to work harder to ‘buy into’ the illusion. Our new sim technology is realistic and adaptable to real life situations. It will convince you that the motion you feel is real which can help your SA neurons fire and wire together.

2. Practise bringing large vessels into port

Navigate your vessel from a virtual bridge toward a wharf or port. Maneuver past other vessels from yachts to tugs, cruise ships and large container ships. With 270-degree view screens in front of you, you get a real-world view of what you will face as a skipper. One of our new simulators has tug hardware and controls to practise bringing large vessels into a range of ports in New Zealand and around the world. This helps increase your spatial memory which feeds into SA.

3. Prevent fatigue and other human factors

There are many potential hazards you may encounter at sea. If you’re new to the industry, your ability to perceive, comprehend and make decisions about your surroundings (aka your SA) may be compromised leading to overload. Overload causes distraction, increased errors, and high stress. Simulation and instructor training limits situational overload which in turn provides the space for situational awareness to develop. The sim environment allows you to prioritise and delegate tasks. It enables you to minimise surrounding distractions which can improve survival during times of overload.

Our new simulator technology will take you to whatever level you want to go. Here’s your chance to get real world experience in a safe environment with proven technology designed to grow a mindset that is fundamental in safety-critical industries like maritime.



Effective Bridges(external link)

(external link)Summary of the various definitions of Situation Awareness(external link)

(external link)Situational awareness(external link)

(external link)Using Simulation Environment to Improve Situational Awareness(external link)

(external link)The Role of Simulation in the Modern Defence Force(external link)


Glandrup, M (2013) Improving Situation Awareness in the Maritime Domain. In Situational Awareness with Systems of Systems (pp. 21-38). New York. Springer.

Sellberg, C (2016) Simulators in bridge operations training and assessment: a systematic review and qualitative synthesis. New York. Springer

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