FCFMT Provost Assures Free Simulator Training For College Students To Ensure Quality Graduates

By Sylvanus OBASI, Lagos

The foremost fisheries and maritime training institution in Nigeria, the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology (FCFMT), recently took delivery of a Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator acquired by the management of the school. 

In this exclusive Interview with PLATFORM REPORTERS, the Provost of the College, Dr Chuks Onuoha assures that the newly acquired simulator will be used for the training of cadets of the school without additional charges so the graduates can project the image of the school positively. 

He also hinted about the efforts of his management to ensure that their students undergo Certificate Of Competency (COC) training programs in the College without having to go outside for it again. Enjoy the excerpts:  

PLATFORM REPORTERS: In a nutshell Dr Onuoha, would you recap for us the event we had at the college today 

DR ONUOHA: The event we had today is a very important occasion in the life and times of this great institution, being the foremost fisheries and maritime institution in Nigeria wiithout a training stimulator for decades since 1969 when the institution was established.  You can imagine how you can train a pilot, either ship or aircraft pilot without the person seeing a simulator or being trained on the use of simulators before you go into the real aspect of piloting. 

You  can imagine that kind of scenario.  It’s just like someone who has never learned how to drive and now entered a vehicle and start driving the vehicle, you know what is going to happen. The level of accident the person is going to have will be monumental and that is going to cost him more because of the damages he is going to incur as a result of the crash or accident.  But if you are trained on the use of a simulator on how to drive, you will make your mistakes there, you correct yourself and be able to know how to drive gradually. It helps to build your initial confidence as a captain before you talk about piloting, moving the ship or aircraft. 

The newly acquired Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator acquired by FCFMT being unveiled by Prof Garba Hammed, ES ARCN at the College campus in Lagos recently.

First, what it does is to build your confidence because all these scenario would be simulated for you to know all the steps you need to take in the piloting before you move the ship or aircraft. So all those fundamental knowledge and skills of piloting it is the same thing that  goes on in the deck that goes on in the cock pit of an aircraft, the same is the equipment you have on the simulator also only that one is not mounted on the real vessel but the simulator is also like a deck of a vessel, so all those equipment you encounter even in real life will be simulated while using the simulator.

The simulator has different degrees or class, this one we acquired is class A, which is the highest class of Simulators. What that means is that you have a wider view. You may have an aircraft or ship that has a smaller view from where the captain sits and the one that has a wider view like the 360 degree wider view and somebody has a 100 degree view, the difference is wide. 

So that will tell you the view the simulator has when the captain is piloting a vessel, so with this training in the use of equipment and simulator, our graduates will now be better equipped to compete with their peers in different parts of the world, since maritime activity is a global phenomenon. 

And before now, most of our graduates, when they graduate, they go outside Nigeria for all these kind of training and they pay in thousands of dollar. so with this simulator, I think that will be a past event, because mostly we are central, this is the center of activities when it comes to maritime, most of the maritime activities occur in Lagos. The simulator wouldn’t have come at a better time than now. So the challenges we are having now is NIMASA giving us the necessary approvals or certifications because it is like a vessel we need to licence it and it is NIMASA that is statutorily empowered by IMO to grant such licence or approvals.

PLATFORM REPORTERS: Has the college written to NIMASA for the certification?

DR ONUOHA: That was part of our discussion after the handover ceremony with the NIMASA team that attended the program. We will write now that we have the simulator to get the necessary approvals and accreditations, so that any program or any certificate being issued here on the use of the Simulator can be recognized in any part of the world.

Newly acquired Class A Full Mission Bridge Simulator acquired by FCFMT recently.

And it’s a major revenue earner in any maritime institution because you run short programs that can give you millions of naira within a very short period of few days. And you know what that means in the life of any institution, and the government will not be spending much money again sending people outside Nigeria for this kind of training.  So that hard-earned foreign exchange which government would have spent abroad training our seafarers outside Nigeria would be conserved in the country thereby helping to boost the economy of the nation. 

There is a lot of packages and skills one can learn with the Simulator: how to use the  Eco-sounder, how to use the ECDISS, how to use the ARPA-RADAR, how to handle the ship, so these are different areas, even how to communicate with your team, the crew on the deck, they are all part of the skills a person needs to learn on the use of simulator. 

Some time, I used to hear one story where a captain who has never used a simulator to train, he doesn’t have the basic skills, so he just handled the vessel without charting his course and they asked him go to Amsterdam and instead of going to Amsterdam, he ended up going to Australia; you know what that means. And if you do that, one you look at even the fuel you have in your vessel, whether it can even take you to your destination. So before you leave, you need to first chart your course and that is with the help of ECDISS – Electronic Chart Display Systems, to know the distance, know the obstacles with the help of the Eco-sounder or Rader, so if you don’t have good knowledge about these, you can’t handle a vessel. 

In fact, I have been wondering the kind of graduates we have been producing. My apologies, but I have been wondering the kind of ship captains Nigeria has been producing without the use of simulator, and that is why most of them before now,  when they graduate, the ship owners and shipping company find it difficult to employ them, because they need to re-train them again and it will cost them a lot of money to do that, but with this now, it is going to be cheaper for everybody, the overhead on the companies will be lesser. 

PLATFORM REPORTERS: Talking about usage, we will like to know, how is the use of the simulator going to be for the students; is it entirely free for students of the college and will it also be of commercial value for the college in terms of external bodies coming to undergo training on the simulator?

DR ONUOHA: For our students, it is meant for them, just like you said it is a competitive world. Maritime world is a competitive world. As a journalist you can google it, Philippines don’t have oil, they don’t even have much vessels, what they do is export maritime manpower all over the world and they have been earning in dollars and repatriating the money back home, and you know what that means to any economy. 

So we want the best for our graduates, we want to give them quality education where they can compete favourably when they go to the outside community, and they will definitely ask where are you coming from, where did you school, it will be an honor and glory to this college that our graduates are doing well.

Dr Chuks Onuoha, Provost of FCFMT

So charging them at these level is not possible. Yes we need the money but I am not sure we are going to charge our students at these level because they are the one to project the college. But the bulk of the money we will get it from the outside community, other maritime-based organizations that will be coming here for training, I believe that is where the bulk of the money will come from.

PLATFORM REPORTERS: We also learnt the college is working assiduously to get the students do their Certificate Of Competency here, can you tell us the level of progress on that? 

DR ONUOHA: This simulator is one of the prerequisites for them to do that. So with this and if NIMASA can accredit the institution knowing that we have this kind of equipment, it’s very easy for them. We can be running the certificate of competency training program here which will qualify them to write their COC examination. 

So with that, we are very good to go. So we are working towards that. All the short short professional certificate programs one can run with the use of this simulator, I believe in no time all these things will be a thing of the past, and the college will continue to play its leading role as the  premier fisheries and maritime training institution in Nigeria.  *** End ***

In part 2 of this Exclusive Interview with Dr Onuoha, He talks about the rivalry between the College and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN Iron). He also explains how the sudden increase in foreign exchange rate inflated the cost of the Simulator by  250% from the initial budget. Watch out for part 2 of this exclusive interview coming soon! 

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