Our research is driven by real industry needs, and is built on lessons learned with real users.

Answering Industry-Led Questions

Virtual Marine’s simulation products are built on strong research of harsh environments and vessel modeling performed with our research partners in NL, Canada. Our small craft simulators are built on fundamental numerical models validated with scale model and full scale testing with subject matter experts, using datasets from world-class research facilities to create high fidelity models of waves, ice, and vessel motions. Through numerous research programs with OEMs, we have integrated our simulation equipment with navigation controls, sensors and RADAR displays, creating a simulation that can be used for training and testing of marine bridge equipment. Through collaborative projects, our simulators have been successfully integrated with third party systems using HLA/DIS and can be used to perform multi-team exercises that can be used to examine the interactions between multiple teams in a common exercise.

VM has been actively engaged in R&D for 15 years, with initial R&D programs directed at building commercial prototypes of VM’s core simulator products. Recent R&D has focused on increasing the flexibility of our products and extending the company’s core simulation technology to new applications. Our research targets optimizing the training experience to the training needed, whether using 6DOF motion platforms, or compact Virtual Reality systems. Current research is focused on improving automated tracking and algorithms that customize the training experience to individual training needs. Through continuous technology development and human factors testing, we are creating high impact training programs that are designed to speed time to competence, increase preparedness for real emergencies, and provide an engaging learning experience.

Together with our research partners we are studying the use of simulation in offshore emergency and operational training to answer industry-led questions. The following are examples of research questions which have been answered with our simulators:

  • How do skills learned in a lifeboat simulator transfer to operation of a real lifeboat?
  • How much practice is needed to be competent in the launch of a lifeboat?
  • How well do skills learned in lifeboat training transfer to a plausible offshore emergency event?
  • How does simulator training compare to to live boat or Computer Based Training programs available to lifeboat coxswains?
  • Do current training practices provide enough opportunity to to master maneuvering of the lifeboat in moderate or high sea states?
  • Can simulation be used to improve the consistency of assessment and instruction in lifeboat operator training?
  • Which techniques used by ice vessel operators are most effective in managing ice around an offshore platform?
  • What is the reduction of training time in offshore site familiarization if a simulator is used to provide initial site orientation?

If you require additional information on our these studies, please contact us.



I/ITSEC 2018

Launching a lifeboat in an emergency requires safety-critical proficiency which can only be achieved and maintained with hands-on practice. Simulators have been specifically created for offshore oil and gas personnel to practice lifeboat launching and maneuvering using representative equipment and virtual environments. As an alternative to live boat training, lifeboat simulators allow for practice in plausible, high-risk events in a safe, realistic environment. An automated simulator is an alternative offering the benefit of on-demand practice while expanding training capabilities. Providing training for these types of scenarios presents challenges for evaluating trainee performance in conditions traditionally not used in training because performance metrics may not exist. The study uses simulation to assess performance in lifeboat training from two perspectives: a live instructor and automated simulator. An experiment was performed to evaluate performance of lifeboat operators in an emergency scenario which included adverse weather and hazards. A simulator was used to provide a safe and controlled means to assess trainee performance. A rubric was created to define scoring for launching and maneuvering tasks in weather, including moderate sea sates. The rubric identified quantitative measures which could be used by the simulator and live instructor to assess performance. The study compared performance measurements taken by a live instructor and simulator with automated tracking as each assessed participants in a simulated emergency exercise. The results show the simulator provided an advantage of being able to consistently track performance on tasks where multiple performance criteria were measured simultaneously. The study also identified limitations in the simulator which were not present in instructor led evaluations, including subjective measures made through visual observation. The paper discusses how simulation can be used to automate scoring and reduce instructor workload, and how simulators can be used to measure trainee preparedness for an emergency event with waves and hazards.

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Assessing Lifeboat Coxswain Emergency Preparedness using Simulation (Marsim 2018)

Lifeboat simulators have been specifically created for coxswains to practice emergency scenarios using representative equipment and virtual environments. As simulation is adopted as an alternative to existing training, operators will be required to demonstrate simulators are effective training tools. A human factors study was performed to evaluate how skills acquired in different training programs transferred to an emergency scenario. Participants received quarterly training in one of three alternatives including a live boat, Computer Based Training, and simulators. At the end of one year, all participants performed an evaluation scenario emulating a plausible emergency event in weather conditions. This study compares the performance of each group and reveals experimental results that assess the effectiveness of methods for training coxswains to deal with a realistic emergency. The study indicates the type and amount of training received has an influence on the trainees’ ability to perform a successful lifeboat launch. The impact of hands-on practice and the type of scenarios used in training is examined. The study also measured skill retention between practice sessions. Results suggest more frequent training is needed to achieve a high success rate on first launch attempt. The study also identifies a high degree of difficulty of performing slow speed maneuvering tasks in waves

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Simulator Training for Offshore Oil and Gas Emergency Preparedness (I/ITSEC 2018)

Lifeboats are essential life-saving equipment for many types of vessels and offshore platforms, such as oil rigs. Although their purpose is for an emergency escape, possibly in rough seas, coxswains usually learn to launch and maneuver the lifeboat on calm waters to avoid risks during training. Simulators have been created specifically for offshore oil and gas personnel to practice in conditions that are normally prohibitive. A human factors study was performed to investigate learning and skill acquisition of new coxswains as they completed training over a year, emulating industry practice of performing quarterly drills. On completion of training, participants were evaluated in a plausible emergency scenario. Exercises were performed in a simulator to provide consistent training conditions and to provide exposure to moderate wave conditions and hazards during assessment. Results indicate several practice sessions are needed to prepare trainees for an emergency lifeboat launch.

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Simulator Training for Lifeboat Maneuvers (I/ITSEC 2016)

This paper reports a behavioral experiment that was conducted to assess transfer of training from a lifeboat simulator to the control of a real lifeboat. It is part of an on-going investigation of emergency skills training for lifeboat operations in the harsh environments representative of offshore worksites. We found evidence of positive transfer.  In our experiment, we evaluate a range of competencies fundamental to the proficient control of a lifeboat using a test course that presented a sequence of challenging tasks as they might be encountered in natural circumstances. We found evidence of positive transfer. We report learning in the simulator, and we compare initial transfer of training and improvement with practice to criterion by each treatment group.  A transfer effectiveness ratio (TER) is calculated. In addition, we report the effect of practicing to criterion within the simulator on training transfer. We discuss the implications of the results for lifeboat training regulators, as well as their relevance to the broader training community.

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Word of mouth works to improve safety

What our customers are saying:

RESQ (Norway)

Client decided to have all coxswains complete the simulator based training. Feedback from training delegates has been very positive. Course ratings of 5.8/6.0 have been consistently received. This compares to a typical course of 5.0/6.0 prior to the introduction of simulation based training.


Prosafe (North Sea, UK)

Simulator training is more realistic than conventional training as it exposes coxswains to emergency evacuation scenarios. The lifeboat simulator allows the crew to develop “muscle memory” and to be more likely to perform well in an emergency situation.

- Capt. Mike Jubb, OIM, Prosafe

SSTL (Nova Scotia, Canada)

The availability of lifeboat simulator technology allows SSTL to offer training options previously considered impractical or unsafe in conventional training.

- Dan Latremouille, Operations Manager, SSTL
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