CSMART bridge simulator“Navigator. Suggestions, anything?” asked the operations leader on the bridge of the Royal Princess. With the bridge in red mode, the operations leader, who happened to be the captain, was doing his situational report, going through team members while standing behind the bridge team. The navigator was fully immersed in the single task of positioning the slowing ship in a safe area to drop anchor as the crew battled a fire as they were leaving port in busy Singaporean waters.

Meanwhile, the co-navigator was on the radio dealing with the local authorities and passing vessels, along with a possible medevac for a burn victim. The administrator, to his right, was on the phone to the engine room to start the bow and stern thrusters. A lookout was keeping his eye on a nearby freighter that didn’t speak much English on the radio. In the back, the staff captain was managing the safety room and working with team leaders on the muster process while updating the operations leader regularly. The bridge was buzzing with drama, and it almost seemed as if everything was happening at once and overwhelming the bridge team, who responded in stride.

The catch? This wasn’t happening in Singapore on a Princess Cruises’ ship, but instead in the Bridge Resource Management 2 (BRM) class at Carnival Corporation’s state-of-the-art CSMART simulation center, located in a low-profile warehouse in an office park in Almere, outside of Amsterdam.

The center is the product of its Managing Director, Captain Hans Hederstrom, who started it with a handful of employees in 2009, and now trains more than 4,000 officers across nine Carnival brands annually.

“We have a resilient system to handle or manage anything that happens,” said Hederstrom, who hosted Cruise Industry News at CSMART in August.

With 36 employees, the center handles extensive ECDIS training, two versions of BRM, and similar classes for the engineering side (engine room management), while more ongoing simulator training is set to begin in 2016 as Carnival plans for all its officers to spend a week at CSMART annually.

 The system preached by Hederstrom dates back to ferry captain Kari Larjo, who was tasked with stopping groundings in Northern Europe decades ago. He brought forth a new bridge cockpit concept, mirroring the aviation world with a navigator and a co-navigator – managed by the operations leader and a large or small supporting cast depending on the situation.

"A big part of the key to success,” said Captain Staffan Persson, director of training, “is that the navigator thinks out loud. That is part of the team’s situational awareness.”

Now, the captain is more of a resource and manages the bridge team to which he assigns roles. (He can still take the navigator role berthing the ship, for instance.)

On-site at CSMART are two incredibly advanced full-mission bridge simulators. One is based on the Emerald Princess while one mimics the new Royal Princess, which was designed to have a function-based bridge management setup.

The engine-room simulator in Almere is based on the Emerald Princess and features two engine control rooms in addition to a number of small rooms that let technicians walk around in the actual engine room of the ship.

No bigger than a closet and using the same technology found in Google Street View, techs could navigate the engine room and operate and fix equipment. Walk up to one of the ship’s six diesel engines and see if it is running okay, listen to it, run voltage tests and more.

 “We aren’t focusing on testing,” said Hederstrom, “training (simulator time) is more important.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2014