Case Studies

Thames Boat Operators

The Challenge

The tidal Thames is the second largest UK seaport and business inland waterway for commercial freight and passenger moments. Strategic objectives to develop the river will lead to significant increases in traffic.

Ship simulators can assist in the accumulation of river knowledge, but currently, the only way to learn this crucial local information is practical experience afloat, known as ‘Tripping’.

The competence of mariners has been developed over years, by ‘Tripping’ the river multiple times. The need to increase the number of qualified practitioners presents a challenge brought about by the need to place trainees on vessels at different times day and night throughout the year. The attainment of local knowledge to meet statutory competency requirements contributes to reducing risk to crews and vessels, to other users and the infrastructure along the River and Estuary.

The challenge in accelerating the time taken for new vessel masters and pilots to develop the knowledge necessary to meet the growth of movements on the River Thames is hampered by the traditional method of developing that knowledge. Presently, competence to ‘pilot’ or take charge of a commercial vessel, relies on studying two dimensional charts and significant time ‘Tripping’ the river. This is costly and time consuming, since practitioners need to experience different weather and tidal conditions to be able to achieve the required levels of knowledge to meet the necessary health and safety standards.

The operators on the river Thames are from traditional backgrounds, usually second or third generation Watermen or possibly even Lightermen. There has been little by way of adoption of training technology with only the Tugboat simulators housed at Hydrology Research Centre Wallingford  available to simulate piloting activities.

Operators were more confident and able to jump into training at any time rather than having to physically be on the water.
Blane Judd, BLTK Consulting

The Solution

The project created immersive video of the stretch of the Tidal Thames, providing immediate access to the tidal River Thames at any time or tide. Through a process of virtual reality, it became possible for users to point to specific items and reveal information about them.

This was equivalent to having a personal guide throughout the journey, drawing data from traditional two-dimensional charts and tidal stream data. The increased access to the data, collated in one application, was unique and provided an enhanced learning environment not replicated in any other training provision, including ship simulators.

The time typically taken to experience frequent 'Tripping' was greatly reduced, since there was no need for access to the river or a vessel. This novel approach significantly supported and augmented practical experience afloat. While it couldn't replace it entirely, it contributed to the reduction of study times.

The Simulations

A significant stretch of the River Thames was turned into an immersive experience using 360 video and the Virti platform.

Interactive questions used active recall to test operator knowledge and multiplayer allowed for a facilitator to quiz learners in live sessions just like they would if they were out on the river.

The Impact

Reduction In Training Time




Increase In Preparedness

The Results

Boat operators felt they were able to learn more quickly and effectively compared to the traditional way of learning. A significant amount of time was saved in learning the "Tripping" process and operators felt more engaged with the VR learning method.

The time required to experience frequent river journeys was greatly reduced, with significant reduction in the cost of achieving ‘time to competence’ and necessary qualifications and an increase in the rate at which new workers can join working river vessels.

Ready to upskill your team?
Contact Us Today