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Bridge test for officers training at BRNC

24 February 2016
Taking charge of a simulated passage from Portsmouth to Plymouth was one of the final challenges faced by a group budding warfare officers to prove their understanding of the regulations at sea.

A total of 58 young officers were individually tested as they took charge of a watch during a 45-minute exercise, known as Channel Dash, in the Daring Bridge Simulator located within Britannia Royal Naval College’s (BRNC) navigation block. 

The multi-million pound simulator has images outside of the windows to represent open sea or harbours and coastlines from around the world. 

It can be set-up to represent different classes of ships or submarines.  

One of the key pillars of the course is that every warfare officer in the Fleet is expected to know and understand the ‘International Regulators for Preventing Collisions at Sea’.

Lieutenant Chris Polley RN

At the click of a button changes can be made to simulate different environmental conditions, such as sea states and winds, and bring into play other vessels, objects or scenarios.

It was used to test each officer’s capacity to lead their bridge team in the role of Officer-of-the-Watch in the running of a navigational fixing routine, dealing with shipping and providing suitable commentary to the staff captain.

The occasional man-overboard was also thrown in to test emergency reactions and calmness under pressure.

The IWO(F) course is a 15-week training package in which the final assessment in the Bridge Simulator is on a pass or fail criteria.  It represents the culmination of the navigation elements of the course.

Lieutenant Chris Polley, one of the instructors within BRNC’s navigation department said:   “One of the key pillars of the course is that every warfare officer in the Fleet is expected to know and understand the ‘International Regulators for Preventing Collisions at Sea’.

“These rules dictate how ships interact at sea to avoid collision. The students on course must develop an in-depth knowledge of these rules, answering detailed written exams, but crucially, they must prove they can apply this knowledge in simulated and real world environments.

“Their effectiveness in their roles in the not so distant future depends on it.” 

Officers specialising in warfare remain at BRNC on completion of their 30-week’s Initial Naval Training for the IWO(F) course before joining units in the Fleet for further experience.

The course primarily takes place at the College, but includes sea time with a week on board a P2000 patrol vessel and five days on a sail training vessel operating around the South Coast. 

Along with the navigational elements of the course, officers are also given academic instruction which is accredited towards a foundation degree from the University of Plymouth and covers a broad range of subjects from metrology forecasting to delving into the scientific principles of ship design and behaviour.

Historical study into maritime conflict is also undertaken with current political and military challenges explored, providing a foundation for further study at a higher level. 

With the course complete, Rear Admiral Tim Lowe, National Hydrographer and Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Hydrographic Office (UKHO), was invited to BRNC to present the Navigation Prize. 

The prize is a framed copy of an historic chart of Dartmouth and is sponsored by the UKHO. It is awarded on an exceptional basis to the top Young Officer who has demonstrated consistent success in the navigational aspects of the course. 

The winner on this occasion was Midshipman Richard Gregory, whose is now set to join HMS St Albans, a Type 23 Frigate, on deployed operations.

Lieutenant Commander Jon Fletcher, the head of the IWO(F) course, said:  “Mid Gregory gave an exceptional performance during his Channel Dash, the culmination of his all-round top efforts in navigation, tying in all of the required aspects of bridgemanship and consolidating his hard work.

“He impressed his instructors with his tenacity and determination to achieve, supplying a complete run of strong grade, all while successfully filling the leadership role of Senior Sub Lieutenant within the College’.

RAdm Lowe also praised the prize winner.  He said: “The UKHO Prize is not always awarded but Mid Gregory appears indeed to be a worthy recipient.”

There is no let up in the training however, with the next IWO(F) course already underway putting  another 36 officers to the test.

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