by Gina Gill

    Risk Reduction With Marine Institute Offshore Simulator

    It is hard to imagine the conditions involved when working offshore. The weather and the environment are some of the top factors that affect the safety and performance on offshore platforms.

    Much of what happens offshore is predictable, so it is the industry’s job to be proactive with training and support workers who are dealing with a variety of situations. The goal is to predict “in advance” possible outcomes, ultimately mitigating risk with the highest available precision.

    The Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator Facility at the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University, Newfoundland, Canada, will do just that – lessen risk with simulated offshore scenarios.

    Likely to be commissioned in March 2015, the simulator will provide advanced training and safety in the offshore industry in areas including: towing and settling the anchors and mooring systems for drilling rigs or production units, supply operations alongside rigs, deployment of oil recovery gear, and towing of icebergs and other ice management activities.

    The simulator will also train individuals to react to the diverse and varied conditions of Newfoundland and Labrador’s environment.

    “Newfoundland and Labrador has a subarctic climate dominated by two sea currents, the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current. Both combine on the Grand Banks to make some of the harshest operating conditions in the world,” explained Captain Christopher Hearn, Director of the Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) and Industrial response and research unit at the Marine Institute. “High sea states, dense fog, strong winds, and sea currents are regular features, as well as intense storms. Simulation is seen as a way to provide training and assessment for people to ensure safety. We want to be preemptive, not reactive.”

    Newfoundland and Labrador is an excellent training ground for offshore activity because of the environmental conditions listed above, as well as the location of the platforms. Both factors give a well-rounded view of the industry. “The fields are offshore presenting logistical challenges for supply or personnel,” said Captain Hearn. “Training for operating in these conditions ensures that the people involved can carry out their work safely and efficiently. Once they become competent to deal with challenges in Newfoundland and Labrador, they are well-equipped to work anywhere in the world,” he elaborates.

    The simulator is also being provided at a vital time. There is a growing skill gap in the offshore industry, with experienced officers and crews retiring, and leaving less experienced people to take their positions. The offshore simulator is the means to train new people and substitute the gap in expertise with experienced and well-trained officers.

    “The Supply and Anchor Handling vessels require experienced personnel who understand and have sound knowledge, beyond common marine credentials and experience,” said Captain Hearn. “With the continued expansion of exploration and production, there is a concern that the experience gap for new people entering the industry and for those who have not undertaken some specific types of activities may result in accidents offshore,” he continued.

    The Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator is an investment in offshore development, which is vital to the economic health of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

    “St. John’s, Newfoundland, has a strong ocean technology economy, spurred on by the growth of the offshore oil and gas industry and the province’s long attachment to the sea and spirit for innovation. Simulation is seen as a strength in the province’s ocean cluster as it allows for training and improving performance without placing people or equipment at risk,” said Captain Hearn.

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