On June 9, 1997, instructors at the Seamen’s Church Institute welcomed
the first class to train inside its newly built Center for Maritime Education
in Paducah, Ky. Fifteen years later, the Institute is looking back on what it
says represented a new venture for inland river industry training and the
training center that continues to help experienced professional mariners hone
their skills today.
Beginning at the turn of the 20th century, through two World
Wars and the development of containerization in the 1950s, the Institute has
provided diverse forms of education to maritime industry employees, the
Institute says. Over the years, the Institute created specialized learning
environments where mariners could rehearse real-life scenarios on the water.
In 1915, the Institute used a retired tender vessel for instruction.
Later, it taught courses on the roof of its 25 South St. building, where it
constructed a mock ship’s bridge at 212 feet above street level — the highest
navigation bridge in the world at the time. And at the beginning of the digital
age, the Institute says, SCI pioneered computer simulator technology.
The school first adapted computer training for coastal and
blue-water applications but soon after began looking at uses of this technology
for the rapidly growing inland river towing industry. In the late 1990s — in
collaboration with several inland river industry companies — SCI built a new
maritime education center situated at the crossroads of the Ohio and Tennessee
Rivers in Paducah.
The facility housed Kongsberg Maritime simulators
constructed around replicas of towboat pilothouses. The simulators employed
wide viewing angles of photorealistic visuals of the marine environment, the
Institute says, including riverbank features, lock and dam configurations,
variations on time of day, river stages, speed of current and weather
Fifteen years after its first training class, SCI continues
to train experienced river mariners using cutting-edge technology, the
Institute says. On April 18, the Paducah staff graduated the 10,000th student
from the Advanced Pilothouse Management Course, Capt. Keith Bigbie of Ingram
SCI works closely with industry training partners to
determine simulation scenarios that help sharpen and enhance professional
mariners’ abilities, the Institute says. With simulations often based on real
events from past incidents on the water, mariners analyze and develop practices
to avoid errors.
Prior to the simulation, instructors brief participants on
the conditions of the simulation and the various challenges related to the
topics. In the debriefing that follows, participants discuss the simulation,
practical measures for similar situations and related class topics.
“We offer practical
and relevant training, asking mariners to bring their work experience and
know-how with them,” says Capt. Greg Menke, director of the Center for Maritime
Education Paducah facility, in an Institute press release.
SCI pairs its students with experienced teachers possessing
years of involvement in the industry and expertise in adult education. This
combination, the Institute says, entails collaborative work in an environment
built on evolving relationships.
“The teachers make the learning environment nothing but
positive. I look forward to returning soon,” one captain wrote in a recent course