The day before its 15th Annual River Bell Awards ceremony, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) pushed the proverbial boat out on a new era of maritime education. In prior months, SCI had installed new simulators and renovated the hospitality areas at its Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY. The official dedication of the refurbished Center on December 10 revealed SCI’s blueprint for preparing a new generation of mariners for safe operations on American waterways.
SCI’s Center for Maritime Education leaders spent 15 months conducting a comprehensive review to gut and rebuild the Institute’s training facilities. After a full scope review, SCI signed a contract with Kongsberg Maritime to upgrade its Paducah facility with state-of-the-art simulation equipment. Paducah-based company Ray Black & Son managed local facility construction, which accompanied a host of transformations to the Center’s physical plant, including new classrooms, de-briefing zones, upgraded hospitality areas, a new visitor’s entrance and conference center. On-site implementation began in August, with SCI flipping the switch at a ceremony on December 10, 2014, at 4:00 pm.
The upgrades to SCI’s Paducah simulators include 23 new vessel models, hardware, software improvements, added visual capacity and new steering and throttle systems. The new simulator harnesses Z-drive technology and with enhanced pilothouse geometry allows for close-quarter maneuvering. When combined with the flat panel LED visual technology, the new full-mission bridge simulators bring a realism that can fool even the most seasoned mariner into believing he or she is piloting an actual vessel.
SCI sought the support of maritime industry partners to finance the enhancements to its Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, KY. Individuals and representatives from many of these companies attended the official dedication in December. The Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche, Bishop of New York, blessed four named pilothouses (MV Capt. O. Nelson Jones, MV Jill P. Flowers, MV Mark K. Knoy, and MV Craig E. Philip), the Buck and Helen Lay Lobby, the Capt. David E. Hammond Classroom and the James Marine Control Room. Demonstrations of the technology followed, with the namesake of each pilothouse making the maiden voyages. Maritime scenes, shot by photographer Gregory Thorp, garnished the walls of each new room.
SCI has begun a new year of training in the remodeled Center and anticipates training close to 1,000 professional mariners in 2015. “This renovation and refurbishment outfits mariners with resources to achieve the highest levels of professional performance,” said Capt. Stephen Polk, Director of Maritime Education and Training at SCI.
SCI’s 2014 upgraded technology and infrastructure made possible with the generous support of:
Ingram Marine Group
Richard King Mellon Foundation
J. Russell and Jill P. Flowers
The Ray and Kay Eckstein Charitable Trust
John and Loree Eckstein
AEP River Operations
The Lay Family
American Commercial Lines
Inland Marine Service
Friends of Terence “Tuna” Gomez Jr.