Have you ever wondered what it would be like to navigate a multi-barge 25,000-ton tow down the Ohio River? SCI’s Open House provided everyday citizens an opportunity to experience it in realistic detail.
On Wednesday, June 24, 2009, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) hosted an Open House, unveiling its newly installed, highly developed computer simulators used in training inland river mariners at the Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY. The Paducah Center, closed for the month of May, officially reopened Wednesday with a dramatic bottle-breaking ceremony. The Open House showcased the new simulator with tours and made public a new photography exhibit of river industry images.
Simulator improvements at SCI add photorealism to the training. The projected images mimic real-world geography and landmarks; the computer software generates changeable weather conditions; and the entire system integrates with an interactive communications system. A student training on this simulator can experience a recognizable route of travel with unpredictable emergencies, interacting with other river traffic in real-time.
Eric K. Larsson, Director of SCI’s Center for Maritime Education, explained some of the advantages of the enhanced simulators. “Firstly, they prepare pilots to handle dangerous, life-threatening situations without risk,” he said. “Secondly, the simulators allow for analysis and repetition of exercises.” According to Larsson, training with technology that closely mirrors the “real thing” means that when dangerous situations arise, pilots are better prepared.
Larsson also made clear that the technology unveiled at this Open House does not just benefit the companies that train at SCI’s Paducah Center for Maritime Education but the entire industry, raising the benchmarks of safety. One river transportation company insurer saw SCI’s demonstration and commented on the high level of commitment from industry leaders to training and safety.
Industry leaders AEP River Operations and Ingram Barge Company pledged the financial assistance that enabled the Center to upgrade its simulators, including hardware, software, and related databases. Their principal co-sponsorship built on a grant from the Western Kentucky Workforce Board to replace the simulator’s projection systems and enabled SCI to purchase and implement these upgrades in May 2009.
Paducah has long been an important city in the nation’s river commerce—afforded by its unique location at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. With these upgrades complete, SCI’s Paducah Center will bring thousands of people each year to Paducah to train and work. SCI’s President and Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider, noted, “Today, we are pleased to celebrate our deepened commitment to mariners and the historic river community of Paducah.”
Along with new, state-of-the-art technology and equipment, SCI refurbished the physical plant (originally built in 1997) with fixtures and appointments to match the quality of equipment and training. SCI installed new flooring, modular work spaces, and upgraded conference rooms and other public spaces in the Center. Full funding of the building renovation project was provided with financial support from the following: James Marine, Inc.; Jesse Brent and Merrick Jones Memorial Foundation; Marquette Transportation Company, LLC; Christ Church Cathedral (OH); Crounse Corporation; Gault, Marshall & Box, PLLC; Marine Systems, Inc.; Paducah Bank & Trust Company; and Padcuah Rigging, Inc. Additionally, SCI’s building features striking images from the inland waterways donated by prominent maritime photographers and river industry companies.
SCI’s President and Executive Director, the Rev. David M. Rider, was at the Open House, along with Board of Trustee members. Executives from river transportation companies, local leaders, and supporters of SCI helping to underwrite these upgrades were also there, including Mark K. Knoy of AEP River Operations; Craig E. Philip, Ingram Barge Company; Ronnie James, James Marine; Alex Edwards, Paducah Rigging; the Very Rev. James A. Diamond, Christ Church Cathedral, OH; Spivey Gault, Gault, Marshall & Box. USCG RADM Mary Landry, 8th District Commander and several other ranking USCG officials attended the event along with Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton and inland river Photographer Gregory Thorp.