LIFEBOAT volunteers went back to college to learn how to save lives when fog falls.
When the crew of Sunderland RNLI wanted to practice rescues in misty conditions, instead of heading out to sea, they headed indoors.
The 12-strong team were put through their paces at the new £1.5million advanced simulator suite at South Tyneside College.
Experts there were able to recreate the extreme low visibility conditions that could be expected two miles off Sunderland’s North Sea coast.
The crew, including six recent recruits, were set the tough task of locating a life craft sending out an SOS signal, which had been picked up on the RNLI’s station radar.
Inside the college’s world-famous South Shields Marine School, they successfully put to sea and carried out the rescue with no loss of life.
RNLI helmsman Paul Nicholson said about 100 real rescues were carried out each year, but that it was down to chance if training could ever be done in fog.
He said: “Operating in fog is a very dangerous environment for any seafarer and it is essential that our crews are up to speed in how to command and navigate safely at sea in any condition.
“We were able to put to sea and carry out the rescue safely. The college’s facilities are superb and extremely life-like.” The simulator opened last January as part of an overall £4.5m college upgrade programme.
The original South Shields Marine School opened in 1861 and has since trained generations of seafarers.
Shajan Lukose, head of Simulation and Senior Marine at the college, said: “Our simulator suite is the perfect vehicle for many types of training and our lecturers were delighted to take up the challenge of helping the RNLI.
“Everyone knows about the tremendous work the RNLI’s volunteers do and it is only right that they should have the best possible facilities on which to learn.”