VESSEL REFIT | Master Class – Western Australia vocational institute places upgraded training vessel back in service

Best Small Training Vessel – Master Class (Photo: Central Regional TAFE)
Best Small Training Vessel – Master Class (Photo: Central Regional TAFE)

Western Australia-based boatbuilder Dongara Marine has completed upgrade works on an existing vessel operated by local vocational college Central Regional TAFE.

The upgrade program on the 20-year-old commercial training vessel Master Class began following the award of a AU$2.1 million (US$1.35 million) tender by the Western Australian government to Dongara Marine in October 2021. All upgrade works were completed by the third quarter of 2023.

The rebuilt 20- by six-metre vessel will once again be operated out of Central Regional TAFE's Batavia Coast Maritime Institute (BCMI) to provide training in fishing boat operations, boating services, and marine engine operations. With the aid of the vessel, the BCMI expects to provide skilled boat crews and maritime workers to support local employers, primarily within Western Australia's Mid West region.

<em>Photo: Central Regional TAFE</em>
Photo: Central Regional TAFE

The refurbishment included installation of new Caterpillar engines, gearboxes, navigational systems, and air conditioning systems in the wheelhouse and galley areas. The installed navigation and communication electronics include equipment from Simrad and MaxSea TimeZero and were selected to enable the vessel to operate with gear similar to that on newer vessels entering service in the fishing and offshore industries. This will allow students to familiarise themselves with some of the latest advanced equipment by the time they are employed on other commercial vessels following completion of their training.

The wheelhouse also has a screen showing feeds from CCTV cameras on the main deck, in the engine room, and in other critical areas of the vessel. This feature allows a limited number of crew to safely and effectively monitor the activities of students without having to move back and forth along the vessel while underway.

Also fitted are an echosounder and a 3D bottom mapping system, the latter being the first equipment of its kind to be installed on a BCMI vessel.

<em>Photo: Central Regional TAFE</em>
Photo: Central Regional TAFE

In addition to the new engines, the engine room is also fitted with additional fire insulation and soundproofing material. The accommodation spaces including the galley/mess and the crew/student berths meanwhile benefitted from reupholstering for added comfort during extended trips out of the vessel's homeport of Geraldton.

Master Class resumed operations with BCMI in early August 2023 and is once again being used for training, primarily of coxswains and other vessel crews. It will also support on-water activities for components of other training programs such as aquaculture, tourism, scuba diving, coastal conservation, and land management.

Master Class
Type of vessel:Training vessel
Owner:Central Regional TAFE, Australia
Builder:Dongara Marine, Australia
Length overall:20 metres
Beam:6.0 metres
Main engines:2 x Caterpillar
Other electronics:Simrad; MaxSea TimeZero; 3D bottom mapping system
Accommodation:Galley/mess; berthing compartment
Operational area:Western Australia

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