New anchor handling tug training emphasizes the view from the aft deck

Top, the simulator room in the Bourbon Training Center in Singapore features the aft controls of an anchor handling tug. The simulator gives trainees a view of the aft deck and the oil rig being maneuvered in the distance. Above, the simulator shows the tug leaning to port as the anchor is towed out from the rig. The two crewmen on deck can be directed from the control room.

For Capt. Jukka Heinonen, the key to safety aboard anchor handling tugs is teamwork.

“The idea of cockpit management started with the Scandinavian Airlines,” he explained, “and then that was taken up by the marine industry and grew into bridge resource management. Now at Bourbon we are taking it a step further and training for crew resource management.”

Heinonen is the training manager at the Bourbon Training Center Asia in Singapore. It is there that the latest in simulators for anchor handling tug supply (AHTS) vessels have been installed. Unlike most marine simulators that give computerized experience in the boat handling and navigational aspects with a mockup of the forward console and view from a tug’s or ship’s bridge, this one concentrates on the aft controls of an AHTS. An additional feature is a simulation from the perspective of the deck crew.

An additional and separate simulator room, the deck room, has two screens, each with a joystick that allows the trainee to control the movement and work of one of the two deck hands who can be seen on one of the screens. All movement is replicated in the view displayed on the bridge simulator. The directions for work to be carried out by the trainees are given over handheld VHF from their teammates on the bridge simulator in a separate room.

On the simulated bridge, the large windows look aft over the deck of a Bourbon AHTS with an oil rig waiting for the tug. The control panels replicate all the functions of a modern AHTS. On the overhead above the windows, screens show the normal GPS locations and vessel speed. Next to that display, another screen shows the location of the rig at center screen with seven anchors of an eight-anchor pattern already in place. Each of the anchors is about 4,800 feet (1,500 meters) out from the rig.

Above, the deck hand trainees receive directions by radio from the simulator bridge. Left, classroom instruction plays an important part in the training.

For training sessions, the rig is designated Eric Raude and the AHTS vessel is Bourbon Liberty 200. The vessel’s capabilities are designed to replicate those of the Guido Perla-designed diesel-electric anchor handling tugs of the GPA254 class with an 80-ton bollard pull. A number of these are currently being built and 13 have already entered the Bourbon fleet. As of November 2009, Bourbon Offshore had a fleet of 326 vessels. All told, Bourbon expects to commission over 127 new vessels in its offshore division by 2012. Not all will be AHTSs, but Bourbon will need to train more than 1,000 new employees on the AHTS simulator.

The simulator training is of special significance for Bourbon in light of the fatal capsizing of the Norwegian-flagged anchor handling tug Bourbon Dolphin in April 2007. At the time of the accident, the nearly new 247-foot vessel was moving an oil rig off Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Eight of the 15 crewmembers died when the tug was pulled onto its side, then capsized and sank. A Norwegian government inquiry concluded poor safety practices contributed to the accident.

The Offshore Simulator Center (OCS) in Norway developed the advanced simulators used in Singapore and at other Bourbon training centers ( OSC is an initiative taken by Farstad Shipping ASA, Rolls-Royce Marine AS, Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (Marintek) and Aalesund University College. Marintek and Aalesund did much of the design work and sourced components from various manufacturers.

At the Singapore simulator, 11 projectors filling the huge wrap-around screen outside the bridge windows show the rig and the tug’s aft deck with two deck hands. The latter move as controlled from the deck room. It is this feature that makes the VHF communication between the wheelhouse and the deck so realistic. “The objective of this training is to promote safety and team work,” explained Heinonen. “Bourbon has a large number of vessels being delivered and so the demand for trained crews is constant.”

The initial targeted group for training on the simulators includes masters, chief and second officers and boatswains, as well as chief and second engineers. The deck officers will then be able to pass the key points of the crew resource management on to the rest of the crews. The engineers are included to build the team because they are the ones who operate the anchor-handling winch. The Singapore facility also has a simulator that can show the perspective of the crane operator on the rig.

Training sessions, which last five days, are taught by senior captains who are currently working in the company’s fleet. Instructors have a minimum of 10 years’ experience, including at least five years on a modern AHTS. Sessions are normally attended by crews who have newly entered the group or have had a promotion to operate on an AHTS and when they have just finished or are just about to start a standard two- or three-month onboard duty period.

Capt. Jukka Heinonen, the center’s training manager, sits at the simulator controls. The training focuses on anchor handling operations rather than navigation.

Each training session includes classroom instructions. Mooring systems, crew awareness, job safety analysis and accident case studies are included in the classroom curriculum. “In the classroom sessions, a lot of discussion is encouraged so that trainees and instructors have the opportunity to learn from each other as well,” said Heinonen.

Over the course of three days, the trainees participate in different operational scenarios from each of the varied crew positions. In the first scenario, the crew picks up an anchor by the pendant and brings it to the deck of the AHTS. The second scenario has them deliver the anchor to the rig’s balustrade. The third has them take the anchor from the rig, run it out to the right point and set it. Each of these scenarios, together with briefing and debriefing sessions, is given a full day. Videos showing the industry best practices are also presented.

Bourbon’s crews are trained either in Bourbon-owned training centers or in some other training structures in partnership or referenced by Bourbon. The Singapore training center is one of several training centers used by Bourbon — each with its own specialty, but a common philosophy — located around the world. Bourbon developed some on its own, like the Singapore center or the one in Manila, Philippines, that specializes in dynamic positioning. Others — like the Bourbon Training Center in Marseille, France, that specializes in platform supply vessel (PSV) and AHTS operations — were developed in collaboration with other institutes.

In Marseille, Bourbon worked with the Ecole Nationale de la Marine Marchande de Marseille. In Ravenna, Italy, a center with a simulator has been developed to train operators of ROVs built by U.S.-based Schilling Robotics. Training programs on operating the Cummins-powered diesel electric systems on the GPA Liberty-class PSV and AHTS vessels are active for all engineers embarking on a Bourbon Liberty vessel in partnership with Electronic Power Design, Inc. in China.

Bourbon will also offer a new type of training for crew boat pilots and will deploy seven crew boat pilot simulators during the coming year. In 2009, the Singapore center began training for AHTS, but plans are in place to add courses for PSV operators in the near future.

From a control room, located between the deck and bridge simulators, the instructors can control a wide range of environmental variables. Daylight can be adjusted for various times of day. Weather can transition from sunny to rainy and even snow can be brought to the Singapore simulator. Winds can be increased and wave heights controlled independently of each other.

“We have requested the office in Norway to modify the program so that we can have wind waves that cross the ocean swells at an angle, as that is a common weather pattern,” Heinonen explained with reference to the relation between the training centers and the program developers. On the screen in the control room, a Skype link is available to assure regular communication with the developers and the training centers.

Representatives of other offshore companies were recently invited to an information session at the Singapore facility. Bourbon’s own training demands are great, but the company is also looking forward to offering training to other offshore companies.

It is on Friday, the final day of training, that things get interesting for the trainees at the Singapore center. “We give them so much weather that they can’t control the vessel and they get sideways to the wire. Then we see how a captain reacts and when they let the winch go to abort the operation,” Heinonen said.

Good training is not only about staying out of trouble, but about how to get out of trouble. It is much better to practice these skills on a simulator in a building in Singapore rather than on a real vessel at sea.

By Professional Mariner Staff