Innovation in port skills, from 3D to VR

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A port as a 3D model and another port in VR (virtual reality) were two examples of innovation in port skills that were explained in depth at the Watermen’s Hall during London International Shipping week.

The event, organised by Port Skills and Safety (PSS), featured several examples of new technology at work, and concluded with breakout discussions groups to consider the use of technology: to improve and monitor careers outreach, for recruitment and assessment, for increasing engagement and outcomes in training, and for upskilling courses required for current workforces.

In a presentation entitled ‘Bring port skills to life – how digital innovation can support career development and outreach’, Chris Hatter, Head of Compliance at Portsmouth International Port, and Pablo Aguirre Babiloni, of Estudio Cactus, described the creation of a 3D map of the port. This was initially set up for safety but is being leveraged for other applications such as interactive and self-learning opportunities for children, practical help for staff and route directions for drivers who are unfamiliar with the port.

The main aim is to use the technology to avoid accidents and risks: “We work with the Portsmouth safety team so they don’t have to improvise,” said Babiloni. “We safety, you get predictability.”

“Using the 3D model and making it interactive is adding a layer of connection to people,” said Hatter. “We can also use the model for training – it takes you around the port and gets people interested.”

Saheed Onisemo, ABP’s Health, Safety and Environment Trainer, discussed the development of a VR port, which has been designed to look like various of ABP’s 21 ports, but not an exact port.
There were some interesting early problems when designing the VR port; users could walk through walls or take a step the wrong way and fall into oblivion. Lampposts ‘floated’ and the overall result was ‘too perfect’ – there were no cracks in the pavements, said Onisemo.

The model was upgraded several times, then tested on staff and apprentices. “Some said – health and safety has become cool,” he said. “Through this VR, I want people to understand where they can and can’t go for health & safety reasons. We want to truly understand what people are doing and why they are doing it. When we understand that, we can start to establish and tailor what we are saying in our training courses.”

At present, the VR is being used in ABP’s internal H&S courses – it is being scaled up for use in other training areas, including leadership, plant and equipment, and refresher training.

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