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Maritime simulation has undergone a transformation over the last three years, largely as a result of computer processing speeds and the ability to create real simulation in real time.

This, according to Joe Mills, the Chief Executive of the Offshore Simulation Centre (OSC) in Aalesund on Norway’s west coast, is a transformational technology that will enable “virtual prototyping” of missions and procedures, leading to huge safety benefits, and time and cost savings of up to 20%.

According to seatrade-maritime.com, the increase in computer processing speeds has enabled old simulation techniques, mostly used in education and training, to develop into high-level virtual prototyping, applicable across a range of industrial sectors. Mills explained virtual prototyping now makes up more than 95% of OSC’s business while training less than 5%.

virtual prototyping is the modeling of real-life processes and tasks so that personnel can practice situation assessment and awareness, execution and strategy, and “what-if” experimentation, all with no risk. It has applications across countless every-day and one-off procedures offshore, in renewables, fishing, commercial shipping, decommissioning as well as countless applications ashore. Simulators can now be programmed so that just the push of a button can model a complex marine or offshore operation in real time.

Even highly experienced personnel can experiment and familiarise themselves with the specific dangers and challenges of that procedure. So, for example, subsea construction generally, ROV operations, or the ship-to-rig transfer of heavy components in heavy seas can be modeled and practiced as a virtual prototype. Energy companies and their contractors are more determined than ever to find ways in which to improve safety, raise efficiency, save time and cut costs.

No surprise, then, when Mills revealed that occasional invitations to speak at industry gatherings a few years ago, probably on the use of simulation to educate students, have turned into a stream of requests to present both publicly and privately on the latest advances in simulation technology.