SCI Launches New Chapter In Maritime Training

Jill  Flowers takes the sticks in the Jill P. Flowers Pilothouse simulator. (Photo by Brad Rankin)


Just as towing companies often have to perform major updates, upgrades and repowerings to their marine equipment, so, too, do maritime training facilities.

The Seamen’s Church Institute recently unveiled a complete refurbishment of its Center for Maritime Education in Paducah, Ky. The top-to-bottom upgrades were on display at a dedication ceremony December 10, 2014, the day before the 15th annual River Bell Awards ceremony.

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, debriefing zones, upgraded hospitality areas, a new visitor’s entrance and conference center.

On-site implementation began in August, with SCI flipping the switch at the December 10 ceremony.

Simulator Upgrades

The upgrades to SCI’s Paducah simulators include 23 new vessel models, hardware and 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.

Industry Support

 SCI sought the support of maritime industry partners to finance the enhancements to the Paducah center. 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 the 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 thanked the following benefactors for supporting the technology and infrastructure upgrades: 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, Amherst Madison, Crounse Corporation, Inland Marine Service, James Marine,
Petter Supply and friends of Terence “Tuna” Gomez Jr.

About SCI

Founded in 1834 and affiliated with the Episcopal Church—though nondenominational in terms of its trustees, staff and service to mariners—the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York & New Jersey (SCI) is the largest, most comprehensive mariners’ agency in North America. Its chaplains visit thousands of vessels in the Port of New York and New Jersey, the Port of Oakland, and along 2,200 miles of America’s inland waterways and into the Gulf of Mexico.

SCI’s maritime education facilities provide navigational training to nearly 1,600 mariners each year through simulator-based facilities located in Houston, Texas, and Paducah, Ky. The institute and its maritime attorneys are recognized as leading advocates for merchant mariners by the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Maritime Organization, the International Labor Organization and maritime trade associations.