Damen Shipyards and Vstep Simulation will establish a laboratory in 2020 that is to explore new simulation solutions. The initial focus is on simulation software for ship design and engineering.

Vstep’s existing Nautis Maritime Simulation platform will be used as a basis. New software will be developed for this platform to allow naval architects and engineers to first model potential changes in a design and then view in virtual reality the impacts that these would have on other aspects of the vessel’s performance.

Reducing Cost per Simulation

‘Business units across the group require ever more simulations to mitigate the risks inherent in designing and commissioning,’ says Marcel Cleijsen, team leader at Damen R&D. ‘Costs per simulated vessel are currently high due to dependency on suppliers, high tariffs and limited re-usability as ownership remains with suppliers. This project is an investment that will drastically lower the cost per simulation by standardising the interface between components and making the completed simulations re-usable for future purposes.’

‘I believe this new project marks the beginning of a closer cooperation that will lead to a wealth of new data findings,’ adds Steve Claes, technical director at VSTEP Simulation. ‘These findings will contribute to the digitisation of the industry and pave the road to a new norm, with our simulator solutions in the lead.’


Damen and VSTEP Simulation already work together via Damen’s associate company 360-Control. There, Nautis Maritime Simulators are used to train crew in manoeuvring tugs and offshore support vessels (OSVs) in a range of scenarios in a highly lifelike but zero risk environment.

Digital Twins

The new laboratory will also explore the potential to create “Digital Twins”. That is, virtual representations of existing vessel types that can then be manipulated to establish how they might perform in roles or conditions that they have yet to experience. That information will then be applied to optimising the designs to allow them to operate effectively in new markets.

‘Investing in a full bridge simulator is a step towards the Digital Twin goal, and not only enhances Damen’s capability as a digital system integrator, but also enables us to present our findings to our internal and external clients and suppliers in an intuitive 3D graphical format,’ states Cleijsen.

The laboratory will be based at Damen’s headquarters in Gorinchem and operational from February 2020.