Written by:
Randy Billard, Executive VP & CTO, Virtual Marine


Research by the offshore oil and gas industry in Canada shows that knowledge obtained in lifeboat training is fragile, and memory of lifeboat launch procedures can decay in as little as 3 months. And with current training limited to training in ideal/benign conditions, emergency launches into high sea states, extreme hazard situations (i.e. fires or gas leaks) or with lifeboat equipment faults, would be difficult situations for lifeboat coxswains who have not practiced these situations.

In the study, participants’ ability to successfully launch a lifeboat on the first attempt, were compared for three methods of training: two methods consisted of current lifeboat coxswain training practices; the other method involved the use of a lifeboat simulator with increasingly difficult emergency launch scenarios. Findings from the study included:

  • Performance of the launch task in the emergency scenario was best for the simulator trained group. This group completed practice launches in a simulator using OEM lifeboat hardware in progressively difficult scenarios. The results suggest that the effect of hands-on practice with the simulator and the effect of increasingly difficulty training scenarios over time, are additive.
  • Memory of launch procedures decayed between between quarterly practice sessions, despite prior training to criterion. However, accumulated practice with quarterly intervals improved retention. It was found that multiple practice sessions were needed to achieve a success rate greater than 50% on first attempt, for tasks that had been previously mastered more than once.

The scientific literature and common experience suggests that many factors can affect retention. These include the length of the retention interval, task type, instructional strategy (training method), conditions of retrieval, and testing methods (Arthur, Bennett, Stanush & McNelly, 1998, as cited by Sauer, Hockey & Wastell, 2000). Simulation provides a means for coxswains to train more frequently and in conditions that are representative of emergency events. Psychological principles of learning, such as over-training, can be employed with simulator-based training to improve retention between practice sessions and to improve performance under stress.