Winner 2017

Real Spill Response Game, 2017 R&D Award Winner

An exercise platform designed to improve preparedness and training for oil spills.

The winner of the 6th ITOPF R&D Award is the Shanghai Maritime University (SMU), College of Transport and Communication, Virtual Reality Lab, China.

The aim of the project is to create a novel tool to facilitate improvements in training effectiveness and efficiency for ship-source oil spill response. The researchers propose to do this by developing a simulation-supported system for conducting multi-organisational oil spill response exercises through designed role-playing games.

This two-year project will commence in May 2017.


Why did ITOPF decide to fund this research?

This is an innovative project that will provide a realistic and fun way to promote good practice in oil spill preparedness and response to the global community. Live drills and exercises play a vital role in preparedness and spill response. The RSRG seeks to simulate virtual reality environments that challenge participants in a novel way, whilst also helping to reduce high levels of resources and costs associated with live drills and exercises. Furthermore, the collaboration with SMU will reinforce the good relationships that ITOPF has developed amongst the oil spill response community in China.


Who is the lead organisation?

Virtual Reality Lab, College of Transport and Communication, Shanghai Maritime University, China

SMU is a leading university in China offering undergraduate and graduate programs in maritime studies. The Virtual Reality Lab (VR Lab) is one of the key laboratories of the College of Transport and Communication, and includes the Oil Spill Response Research (OSRR) group of experts specialising in marine oil spill preparedness and response. Since 2007, the OSRR group has directed several research projects for the China National Science Foundation and China Ministry of Transport focusing on decision making in emergency response for ship-source oil spills. The OSRR group has collaborative relationships with the Chinese government, research centres and industry sectors.

The project lead, SMU faculty member Dr. Xin Zhang, has researched and published extensively on ship-source oil spill preparedness and response, and also participated in several oil spill response exercises as an expert.


What are the background and objectives of this project?

The efficiency and effectiveness with which multiple organisations respond to complex, large-scale oil spill incidents depends crucially on the coordination of actions and clear communication among decision makers. However major oil spill incidents occur relatively infrequently (see ITOPF's statistics), so responders have few opportunities to establish useful real-life experiences of crisis management. Live drills and exercises are very costly; and moreover, participants cannot realistically stop to identify mistakes and correct any errors before moving on.

Current training exercises lack an efficient method to evaluate performance, analyse whether goals have been fulfilled and feed information back to participants. There is therefore a need to develop realistic and flexible multi-user training environments in which coordinated response to an oil spill incident may be trained and learned. The aim of this project is to produce the RSRG (Real Spill Response Game). RSRG will use virtual reality environments to conduct multi-organisational oil spill response exercises at a lower cost than traditional methods and in a repeatable and traceable way.

The main objectives of the RSRG are to:

  • Provide an interactive game simulating an incident scenario so participants can experience what it is like to respond to an oil spill through repeated role-play under changing scenarios;
  • Design custom-tailored exercises to fulfill various objectives such as individual competency training, team coordination training, tabletop exercises, command-post training, etc;
  • Monitor the actions of all participants including operational outcomes, decision making, information seeking and sharing, communication and coordination;
  • Offer an efficient tool to conduct a debrief and post-action review through visualisation and statistical analysis.