Shipboard Emergency Training – Technology Solutions

us navy, damage control, DCTT
030604-N-7902K-084 Philippine Sea (Jun. 04, 2003) — Damage Control Training Team Supervisor (right), Hull Technician Chief Anthony Wilson and team leader for hose team two (left), Gas Turbine System Technician 3rd Class Clayton Wheeler talk to the accessman (center), Seaman Rafael Rivera about the hose team procedures for accessing a fire filled space after a main space fire drill. The drill was held during battle stations aboard the guided missile frigate USS Ingraham (FFG 61). Ingraham is part of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Strike Force on deployment in the Western Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Jeremie Kerns. (RELEASED)

gCaptain was critical of many recommendations provided to the offshore industry in the US Coast Guard’s recent Deepwater Horizon Investigation report. Upon first review, our intention was to give alternative options and a more thorough analysis of each point of criticism but we were soon overwhelmed by the sheer number of items we did not agree with. With this in mind we have started looking more closely at each point and developing ideas to help the industry move forward.

Of all the opportunities for safety improvement offshore, gCaptain believes that emergency preparedness is the low-hanging fruit but, in this area, we found the CG’s recommendations to be vague. The following is the CG’s comment on emergency training along with our rebuttal:

“Emergency Preparedness: Transocean failed to require that systems and personnel emphasize maximum emergency preparedness.   As discussed above, Transocean allowed the DEEPWATER HORIZON crew to inhibit or bypass gas alarms and automatic shutdown systems, and it did not require robust emergency drills.”

gCaptain agrees with the fact that Transocean emergency drills could likely have been much more robust in nature, but they did drill every Sunday and performed these drills as required.  Recommendations may include working with the USCG and the US Navy to come up with a new damage control training program and new system of evaluating the effectiveness of weekly drills.  The gas alarm is a totally separate issue, and should not be included in this finding.  Again, see our article: Critical Alarms – Are they being monitored, inhibited or both?

Our recommendation for the industry to “include working with the USCG and the US Navy” is based on our own experience comparing the emergency drills conducted aboard Navy vessels with those aboard offshore rigs. The difference is striking with naval units conducting intense all encompassing evolutions and offshore rigs shoe horning drills into one hour time blocks (frequently shorter) on Sunday mornings.  And yes, we certainly understand the need and opportunity for Navy ships to drill with more intensity than rigs but this does not mean we can’t follow the Navy’s lead.

In the short-term, it’s critically important that offshore rigs begin to take emergency preparation and drills with the same attitude and range as naval units. Drills don’t need to happen everyday offshore but when they do happen, drilling operations need to be shut down and the drills conducted with 100% participation of those involved with real emergencies. This means that client representatives (BP, Chevron, etc) aboard the rig, shoreside personnel (BP & Transocean emergency response teams) and third-party responders (Salvers, CG, standby vessels, medivac dispatchers, etc) all need to participate in weekly drills. This is the only way drills can be conducted with the level of realism needed to provide the highest level of training and it’s the only way for rig workers to feel the high priority each company places on safety operations.

While this is certainly the result most hope, for we have to walk a long path of development before reaching this goal. For this reason the industry needs to look at two aspects of Navy operations to help shape the future; technology and training.

Originating from regulations imposed by North Sea authorities after the Piper Alpha disaster, Major Emergency Management (MEM) class, is an industry standout in providing crews with real-world simulations of disaster scenarios and one-on-one instruction to help crews learn disaster management.  All Transocean Rig Managers, Offshore Installation Managers, and Captains are required to go through this training.  In fact, as a Performance Rig Manager trainee, gCaptain’s Rob Almeida went through this program last summer.

“As a former Integrated Training Team Leader on a Navy warship, I was quite impressed by the training.  The scenarios and timelines were realistic and the instructors at the Petrofac facility were top notch.  They really knew how to create a stressful, and meaningful training environment for the students.”

This was excellent training for the rig’s senior management, but what about the rest of the crew?  How can we take this to the next level?

At the Offshore Technology Conference last week, gCaptain met with L-3 Communications, a leading provider of emergency response technology to the US Navy.  For 25 years L-3’s MAPPS division has provided integrated monitoring and control of all the ship’s platform machinery with special emphasis on fire/smoke/flood detection and damage control.  gCaptain is particularly interested in two leading products from MAPPS; I2BMS and OBTS.

I2BMS is an Interactive Incident Board Management Station which can allow both ship-board and shoreside personnel to view command and control information in realtime as well as solve some of the issues experienced by the Deepwater Horizon team like accountability of personnel. They tell us:

Our current state-of-the-art battle damage control system (BDCS) allows operators to plot damage on the ship’s general arrangement plan (GAP). It offers unrivalled ease of navigation, using familiar Windows® style navigation methods of pan, tilt, zoom and selection with “rubber band.” The real power of the BDCS is its unique ability to use layering to declutter pages. There is only one GAP page in isometric view and one in 2-D view, and all the information necessary to get the status of the ship is available on that one page. The key to easy navigation is that the information is presented in layers. As the operator drills down or zooms into the page, more and more information becomes available (see figures 1 – 3). As always, the complete integration of the BDCS with the integrated platform management system reduces operator workload and improves damage control efficiency by the direct interaction of the systems. On flood detection, automatic sequences can quickly and easily isolate compartments. In an NBC [nuclear, biological, chemical] event, positive citadel pressure can quickly and easily be achieved with automatic sequences. Similarly, a fire can be readily identified and prevented from spreading by automatically isolating the ventilation system and closing automatic fire doors.

While the level of functionality of our BDCS is unrivalled, and the ease of navigation completely unique, our research and development team is always seeking ways to further improve the system and help the ship’s crew be the most effective.

The other service is L-3’s OBTS training solutions which, like Transocean’s Aberdeen MEM center, provides real-life simulation training to first responders. But, unlike Aberdeen, the company also provides dedicated instructors with the highest level of military damage control experience. Most promising, and in line with the offshore community’s “can do” attitude, is L-3’s understanding that training does not end with a course certificate. As the company states “MAPPS OBTS trains crew members aboard their vessels, using the same Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) control consoles and interface that they use in the day-to-day operation of their ships.” They tell us:

The OBTS provides operational training similar to that of a full-scope simulator. By using the same IPMS Human Machine Interface (HMI), control sequences and other control and monitoring software functions as are used on the operational IPMS, the MAPPS concept is to train an individual or a team at his usual IPMS station using a real-time simulated environment without affecting the simultaneous IPMS control and monitoring functions of the real plant. OBTS provides a realistic training environment. Whereas in traditional training an instructor would have to abort a scenario that might endanger machinery and personnel, using an OBTS simulation allows the instructor to push the training envelope further. OBTS allows for the full range of remedial action / emergency response, and the more realistic stress that normally comes with them. Performing the training scenario in full allows the trainee to be confronted with pages and interfaces he would rarely use during regular operations. It allows the trainee to go beyond the catastrophic failure point to bring about practical, real-time and realistic feedback to his actions, as opposed to the theoretical responses associated with the conventional approach.

In short, the OBTS is essentially a “flight simulator” for vessel operators and damage control personnel, with the added bonus of instructors that monitor each training objective.

Real or near real-time feedback of specific actions is needed in our industry.  Realistic training exercises are certainly the first step and need to be augmented with the latest simulation and command/control technology, but the path forward most certainly includes a program that can provide feedback and a method to evaluate training objectives.