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Maritime Academy to get simulators upgrade

Unions pitch in to prepare classes for new technology

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    Michael Gibson, senior representative with the Regional Council of Carpenters, works on the ceiling to make room for simulators that will help train students at the Maritime Academy of Toledo.

    <The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Michael Gibson, senior representative with the Regional Council of Carpenters, works on the ceiling to make room for simulators that will help train students at the Maritime Academy of Toledo.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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The installation of a high-tech, virtual-reality simulator center is set to begin at the Maritime Academy of Toledo once the preparations are completed next week.

The first simulator is expected to be installed in January and be up and running by Feb. 1 so that students at the academy can learn to pilot various types of ships through various types of waterways, ports, and weather.

This would not be possible without the preparatory work donated by two local unions, academy officials said.

The academy, 803 Water St., which offers classes to students in the 5th through 12th grades, will first get a radar-simulation classroom and a full-mission bridge, at which students will have a 240-degree frontal view and 60-degree rear view, and later” a tugboat simulator and an engine-room simulator, complete with 10 years of support and updates.

“We are very excited,” said Renee Marazon, president and superintendent of the 246-student charter school. “I express my deepest gratitude and appreciation, and sincerest thanks to the 20 skilled union carpenters of Local 351 and to the IBEW Local 8 [electrical construction] workers.”

“Their dedication and commitment is forever etched in our minds and literally in the footprint of the new bridge-and-radar simulator, making them a significant part of our history and of our mission,” she said.

The preparations for the project were expected to be complete Friday but were pushed back a few days by bad weather. The project was announced in September.

Ms. Marazon said the academy had only $30,000 and a short period of time to complete the reconfiguration of the second floor of the academy building at One Maritime Plaza.

Without the donations, the academy would have never completed it on time, she said.


An artist’s rendering shows the new simulators at the Maritime Academy of Toledo. The radar-simulation classroom and full-mission bridge give students a 240-degree frontal view and 60-degree rear view from vessels.


Over the last two months, about 20 members of Local 351 and some of their contractors donated more than 690 hours of labor, working daily.

They built new bridge walls, painted the bridge simulator area, raised the floor for the new bridge simulator, and removed walls from the radar classroom. They also painted the radar classroom, and installed new ceilings in the bridge and radar classroom. Plus they donated and laid new carpeting for the radar simulator room, and donated materials for the new simulator consoles.

“The thing that really got us is the fact that the kids really needed that simulator for their course work. And if we weren’t going to do it, the kids wouldn’t have their simulator in time for their program,” Dan Morey, financial secretary for Local 351, said.

Workers with the IBEW Local 8 reviewed all electrical requirements for the new simulators, moved existing outlets, and moved and installed electrical equipment for the simulator center. The IBEW Local 8 donated more than 120 hours of labor, and about $5,000 worth of electrical supplies.

“We wanted to be involved in the community,” Joe Cousino, business manager at Local 8, said. “The maritime academy is an organization that is educating the students who will be getting decent middle-class jobs. ... Our members are not just electricians but community members who are willing to help.”

The volunteer work sets the stage for an engineering team from VSTEP, a Netherlands-based company, to install a full-mission bridge simulator and a radar simulation Class-A bridge simulator.

Most of the work is scheduled for completion by early February, with the simulators expected to become operational in several phases through 2017.

The company agreed on a significant discount in return for using the academy as the company’s first U.S. demonstration site, with the school’s initial investment of about $100,000 for the simulators that normally would retail for about $1 million, academy officials have said. Replacement parts for the academy’s old, DOS-based simulators from the early 1990s were no longer available and the cost of new, high-tech simulators was prohibitive.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins, who visited the site Thursday, praised the project as “an outstanding partnership between labor and education.”

In addition to the donations from the unions, the academy received a $30,000 economic development grant from the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority in November to help fund the project.

Contact Mike Sigov at:, 419-724-6089, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.

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