Alaska vo-tech center first with ice navigation course

The following is the text of a news release from the Alaska Vocational Technical Education Center (AVTEC):

(SEWARD, Alaska) — The International Maritime Organization announced refinements to the Manila Amendments to the Polar Code in February 2015. This now will give better guidance to the requirements for STCW training of ships officers navigating in polar waters.

It is no coincidence that the Alaska Vocational Technical Education Center (AVTEC), Alaska Institute of Technology in Seward, Alaska, presented the first ice navigation course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard in November 2014. The curriculum for the 10-day short course was developed by a team of senior Alaskan mariners and a University of Alaska Anchorage Arctic engineer, with a view toward implementation of IMO Polar Code requirements. The course is compliant with current IMO STCW guidelines for ships operating in ice-covered waters, emphasizing Arctic operations associated with offshore oil and gas development.

Any mariner completing the ice navigation (ALAVCT-738) course will satisfy the knowledge, understanding, and the proficiency for the ice condition, voyage planning and navigating ice requirement of Section A-11/2, Table A-11/2 and Section A-11/3, Table A-11/3 of the STCW Code as amended 2010, and task 1.1.A.4 of NVIC 10-14 and 1.1.A.3 of NVIC 11-14. We are also confident that as changes are made to the Polar Code, AVTEC’s courses with minor refinement will meet any new requirements to conform to the 2015 IMO ice navigation training guidelines.

AVTEC’s course makes extensive use of simulations using the center’s Kongsberg Polaris Class A and two Class B simulator bridges. Simulations begin with bridge familiarization and basics of observing and reporting ice conditions. Participants apply, ECDIS and ARPA tools to supplement life-like Arctic visualizations in the Det Norske Veritas (DNV) certified simulator bridges. Complex simulation scenarios challenge participants with exercises in route finding, pilot transfer, anchoring, convoys, and emergencies in ice. Each exercise in the simulator involves at least 45 minutes of intensive mission evolution, followed by debriefing discussions among course participants and instructors.

The three interactive simulator bridges at AVTEC realistically portray hydrodynamics of ship interaction with a solid ice edge and with broken ice, reduced stability from superstructure icing, interactions between multiple ships in ice, and towing in ice. Each participant must have a turn at “the con,” at the helm, and as navigator, using all the sensors, displays, radio communications, and other bridge resources of a modern well equipped ice-going ship. Simulator experience provides course participants with confidence to deal with extraordinary ice navigation challenges without the expense and risks of real-world experience at sea extreme conditions, such as extreme cold, high winds, high waves, darkness, fog, and snow.

The AVTEC ship simulators have been instrumental in training mariners for over a decade. Maritime professionals from Alaska and throughout the United States have utilized AVTEC simulators and other facilities for advance training including pilot groups and watch-keeping crew from cruise ships, tankers, commercial fishing vessels, ferries, and U.S. Coast Guard ships.

Kongsberg Vice President of Sales and Acting General Manager of the Americas Clayton S. Burry had the following comment on the ice class and use of Kongsberg Simulators: “On behalf of Kongsberg, a well-deserved congratulations to AVTEC on having completed its first STCW 95 approved ice navigation course for professional mariners. AVTEC’s innovation in the development of new programs tailored for operations in the harsh environments of the Alaskan coast, Northwest Pacific and Arctic waters are commendable. … Kongsberg is proud to have shared this remarkable voyage with AVTEC. From the U.S. Coast Guard–approved ice navigation course endorsed in May of 2013, whereon AVTEC was recognized as having the first approved training course as outlined in Subpart C of Part 11, Title 46, Code of federal Regulations governing ice Navigation (ALAVTC- 738), has provided a valuable learning experience for all.”

Classroom training in the course begins with principles of ice physics as a basis to understand ice formation, behavior, and decay, including ship superstructure (sea spray) icing. Characteristics of lake, river, sea, and glacier ice are thoroughly reviewed, including international standards of observation, classification, and reporting. Polar weather and regional ice climatology are also reviewed. Selected historical ice reports are interpreted by participants in the classroom, then subsequently applied in simulator exercises that demonstrate effects of winds and currents on ice behavior. Participants are also led to consider steps to prepare ships and crew for duty in ice and Arctic winter conditions, as well as issues associated with protected Arctic wildlife and accidents at sea, such as instrumentation and mechanical break-down and prevention of and responses to oil spills.

Dr. Lawson Brigham, former Coast Guard icebreaker commander and distinguished professor of geography and Arctic policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, had the following comment on the importance of the AVTEC Ice Navigation course to the maritime community: "The human dimension has been the most important element of the IMO Polar Code discussions for more than 20 years. Expertise and competence in the pilothouses of ships sailing in polar waters have leading, instrumental roles in the implementation of a mandatory Polar Code and in enhancing Arctic marine safety and environmental protection. … The AVTEC class is the first U.S. Coast Guard-approved Ice Navigation course in the US and it goes a long way to closing a critical gap in polar navigation training."

The first presentation of the AVTEC ice navigation course naturally has led to refinements in the order, depth, and delivery mode of various topics addressed. Future offerings of the course will continue to emphasize simulator application of principles and practices introduced in the classroom. The course targets watchkeeping ships’ crewmembers, so the course will also continue to rely on interaction of the senior mariners attending to provide context for readings and classroom presentations. Topics will be adjusted to remain compliant with IMO STCW and Polar Code requirements as these develop further. AVTEC will offer the Ice Navigation course several times each year, but can also accommodate industry needs for a special schedule.

AVTEC, located 120 miles south of Anchorage on the Kenai Peninsula in the beautiful harbor town of Seward, has led Alaska’s maritime education efforts for over 20 years. President Harding, arriving on the U.S. Navy’s SS Henderson on July 13, 1923, was so impressed with Seward that he called it “the gateway to Alaska." Seward has year-round activities that provides thrills to the most extreme back country hikers and skiers, as well as gentler shore side and mountain walks. Seward also boasts some of the best salmon and halibut fishing found anywhere on earth in the spring and summer months and is the sailboat capital of Alaska.

By Professional Mariner Staff