At the Australian Maritime College survival centre, students are required to quite literally take the plunge.
In a darkened room that you can only access via an internal buzzer, students are put through their paces in a simulation of an emergency shipwreck.
The simulation is eerily accurate, with the room plunged into darkness; rain falls from the ceiling and simulated wind whips the hair off the students' faces - while it simultaneously howls in their ears.
Survival centre instructor Michael Douglas said in his experience the simulation is one of the best in Australia and provides a much-needed stress test for those seeking a commercial career at sea.
"The survival centre is unique in Australia because it's the only facility in the country able to offer such a high level of real-world environmental realism," he said.
Realism effects include complete darkness, storm effects including rain, simulated lightning and thunder are all capable thanks to the simulation infrastructure.
Mr Douglas says the simulation helps to heighten the students' senses and serves to heighten their stress levels, something that is critical if they ever were to be in a shipwreck experience.
"The students finish the practical drill which culminates in a simulated nighttime abandonment experience where they launch a life-raft from the side of the ship. They finish on a real high, buzzing with adrenaline from the experience," Mr Douglas said.
He said the simulation was important to train muscle memory and give students an idea of what to expect in a ship emergency.
The facility is used to train seafarers in sea survival including ship abandonment, life raft deployment and operation and detection and rescue techniques.
Last year, the facility had about 1500 people come through the training program, including AMC students and industry professionals from the Defence Department, search and rescue organisations and Marine and Safety Tasmania (MAST).
"Anyone that works at sea in a commercial capacity whether it be on a small boat involved in aquaculture operations through to crewing a passenger liner or a supertanker must undertake a training course," Mr Douglas said.
New regulations introduced in 2014 also now requires commercial seafarers to refresh their training every five years, most of whom come back to the AMC to update their accreditation.
Mr Douglas said the AMC survival centre was unique in its ability to provide realism in emergency simulation in a way that didn't rely on computer simulation.
However, that uniqueness was a double-edged sword.
"This survival centre was set up in the 80s; a lot of the equipment you see is updated but it's been set up for the requirements of the time," he said.
The ageing infrastructure means the survival centre is in need of some funding investment to ensure it can meet the future needs of AMC's students and the maritime industry workforce.
Mr Douglas said an upgrade of the facilities would mean that it could offer different types of survival scenarios, such as helicopter underwater escape training.
"We have a helicopter hoist here to be able to do some lift practices, and they can use it to launch the life raft, but if we had an upgrade we'd be able to offer the underwater training," he said.
He said the survival centre would be well placed to also diversify into the simulation of human factors under the AMC's proposed defence precinct, however, the details on the precinct are scant.
Mr Douglas said acting calm under pressure was the aim and while the training might make them apprehensive at first, most students left the building "on a high".
"Unless you've been in that situation you're not prepared for it, so you need to be able to feel really stressed in a safe environment," he said.
"We do have measures in place in case if things get too out of hand we are able to stop the simulation but we do like to push them. I, personally, would like to see them pushed a lot harder.
"It allows them to approach something like that proactively and mentally to be able to deal it."
- Under the Surface is a deep dive into the capability of the AMC and calls on federal government funding support for the facility's proposed defence precinct. Next, the series will speak to Tasmania's Defence Advocate Steve Gilmore on why the state should stay laser-focused on the industry.
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