On the west coast of Norway, just past the corner where the rocky coast begins to curve to the east and on upwards to the cold and remote subarctic and arctic reaches lies Aalesund (pronounced ohl-a-sund), a town that lies in the middle of one of Norway’s most important maritime industrial centers.
Within a stone’s throw of the seawall in the center of town is the headquarters of Farstad Shipping and a short ferry ride across the sound will take you to the home of Island Offshore, Ulstein Verft Shipbuilding, Kleven Shipbuilding, and Rolls-Royce’s propulsion facility – among others.
Up until the late 1990’s, Rolls-Royce was hardly a player at all within the maritime and offshore sector, however since the company acquired Ulstein (which was at the time owned by the Vickers Group) in 1999, Rolls-Royce’s footprint in this area has grown increasingly larger. The acquisition included everything except Ulstein’s shipbuilding division, and launched Rolls-Royce into the field of naval architecture and marine engineering with the UT designs, ship propulsion and propellers, and medium-speed Bergen marine engines.
In support of their significant client base in Norway and Europe, Rolls-Royce announced plans in 2010 to start up a new state-of-the-art training facility in Aalesund.
Rolls-Royce’s training facility, which started operations in 2012, has taken a leading role as part of the Norwegian Maritime Competence center in Aalesund, one that includes over a dozen other stakeholders. Within their facility are scaled-down versions of marine propulsion systems such as controllable pitch propellers, azimuthing thrusters and deck machinery systems such as chain winches and seismic streamer reels.
In addition to offering hands-on marine engineering training, the facility features a plethora of three dimensional simulators that may quite possibly get you feeling seasick if you stay in them long enough. In fact, they occasionally use the realism of the experience to help clear out the crowds of people who visit the simulator during their occasional open house events.
It seems more than a few people have succumbed to simulator-induced seasickness while visiting their facility… which is not surprising considering the bridge facility provides a full-360 3D experience.
Rachael Gosnell, an active duty U.S. Navy surface warfare officer had a go at the controls of a simulated platform supply vessel while on station next to a semi-submersible rig. “It was incredibly realistic training,” she commented, “far more advanced than what I have used in the Navy.”
“She picked it up very quickly though,” noted Knut Johan Ronningen, Business Development Manager for Rolls-Royce who was providing a bit of coaching.
Among their many other training courses, this facility offers the Dynamic Positioning Operator “DPO” Basic course which is certified by the Nautical Institute leading up to DPO certification.
In 2013, over 3000 customers and Rolls-Royce employees were trained in this facility. In addition, over 6000 visitors toured the facility over that period.
Beyond the bridge simulator were a number of other 1-person simulators that provided training for crane operators, anchor handling, as well as those involved with deploying seismic streamers. Rolls-Royce notes in their recent In-Depth magazine that up to 60 percent of the value of the vessel is towed behind the ship during seismic operations, and thus the consequences of human error are high.
“Our aim is to give a near true life experience where all the complexities of those operations can be practised,” commented Arnstein Erdal, Lead Product Trainer at Rolls-Royce’s training facility. “Faults and difficult working scenarios are injected as confidence increases, to ensure the crew can cope with virtually any set of circumstances.”
As the industry’s needs continue to evolve, this center and others like it around the world will remain an important, relevant and flexible tool to deliver much-needed training to the maritime and offshore industry work force.
The limit to what can be offered is confined almost entirely to the capabilities of the programmers who draw up the 3D simulations.