Luncheon Marks Opening, Signals Strength

Oct 29, 2010
USCG RADM Paul F. Zukunft, the federal on-scene coordinator for the BP oil spill, spoke to 146 attendees at the Seamen’s Church Institute’s (SCI) annual Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon on October 20 about cleanup and recovery operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The luncheon marked the re-opening of SCI’s Houston Center for Maritime Education after major upgrades to its computer simulator equipment.
Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon
The hour-and-a-half-long Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon gathered representatives from 13 companies in the maritime industry to SCI’s Houston training center. “SCI takes a multi-faceted approach to serving mariners,” says Eric Larsson, Director of Maritime Education at the Institute. “We want maritime trade to prosper, and by facilitating conversations between various stakeholders we increase safety and see continuous quality improvements.”
In the spirit of uniting the maritime industry, SCI’s annual luncheons in the Port of Houston provide corporate leaders opportunity to collaborate with other leaders. This year’s luncheon focused on responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the impact of which continues even though the well has been capped. Keynote speaker RADM Paul F. Zukunft, Assistant Commandant for Marine Safety, Security and Stewardship, addressed the luncheon assembly followed by a question and answer period. The admiral’s presentation focused on recovery and examination, including a review of national response plans.
SCI’s Director of Maritime Education feels that because of events like the Houston Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon, the Institute has earned a solid reputation among maritime transportation companies. “In maritime education, in Ministry on the River, and in our Center for Seafarers’ Rights, the industry knows that SCI acts with one mind,” says Larsson. “We have no other agenda other than to serve the mariner the best ways we can.”
Companies who attended the luncheon donated generously to the Institute. Monies benefit SCI’s maritime education programs, including the simulator upgrades made this year. SCI raised a total of $70,851 from the event. The largest contributor, Kirby Corporation, officially sponsored the luncheon. 
Houston Simulator Upgrades
The mark of SCI’s commitment to mariners came in the million dollar upgrade it made recently to its simulator equipment in Houston. Several companies from the industry stepped up to help underwrite the cost. The comprehensive upgrades serve emerging needs in the Houston maritime community.
SCI unveiled its new simulation equipment in demonstrations during the week of the Maritime Training Benefit Luncheon. The simulator’s debut signaled training customers’ return to a regular routine after repairs closed the Center earlier in the fall.
SCI’s upgraded simulation equipment provides a uniquely interactive and dynamic training environment unparalleled in North America. While the simulators primarily provide mariner training, the new equipment has the capability to recreate many new scenarios, including the protection of local land-based assets incorporating emerging challenges to maritime security. With further development, the advanced hydrodynamic models used in this technology could simulate oil spill scenarios.
The completed upgrades to the Kongsberg simulator with four vessel bridges included 22 new visual projectors, all new software, and many hardware improvements. Two of these bridges are in projection theaters with a 50’ diameter and 18’ high screens. Vessel types can be from 26’ to over 1400’ in length with drafts that can exceed 60 feet. 
The improvements mark the beginning of SCI’s advancement of this facility. “SCI commits itself to making Houston a world-class leader in maritime training,” says David M. Rider, President and Executive Director of SCI. “We see the changes in our world and in the industry, and we must change, too, by adapting our technology to meet tomorrow’s demands.”