Simulating for Safety

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- Maersk Training Centre (MTC) has become one of the world's largest and most respected providers of maritime and offshore training services, with sites in Denmark, India, the UK and China. Part of their overall strategy is high-quality simulators, like those from KONGSBERG.

"The potential for the occurrence of technological or man-induced disasters has increased as the pace and scale of new technological operations have accelerated throughout the world." This observation, made in 1982 by a professor who had investigated the circumstances around two major accidents that took place during oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, is as true as ever now, over two decades later.

One of the accidents that the professor had investigated involved an A.P. Møller-Maersk (APMM) drilling rig, the Maersk Explorer. This company's post-accident investigations also led to observations, and – more importantly – a few recommendations. It determined that the accident had been avoidable, that the training its employees had received at the training centres of the day was not sufficient and that it should open its own training centre.

Thus begins the story of the Maersk Training Centre (MTC) in Svendborg, Denmark, which over the past three decades has produced one of the world's best-trained generations of seafarers and oilmen within the Maersk organization, and now extends its scope to personnel outside of APMM. And, with the help of Kongsberg simulators, the pace and scale of technological improvements in its training environments can keep up with the technology of real-life operations.

A World Leader

MTC worldwide delivers 29,000 course days to over 9000 participants yearly, in roughly 500 individual courses. The range of courses offered span crane operations, team management, drilling technology, safety awareness and a huge selection of navigational and cargo-handling tracks for maritime personnel. Its training centres in Denmark, India, the UK and China reach across a huge population of training environments, and they are considering operations in the Philippines and Brazil, as well.

Recent strategic changes at the training centre will have a big impact on its success, and its attractiveness to other shipping and offshore companies. First, the centre's directors decided to make its courses available to external companies (that is, non-APMM staff) – a considerable change for a centre that had been exclusive for three generations. Second, the centre gained a Certificate of Excellence in training operations after Det Norske Veritas (DNV) executed a detailed four-step inspection; MTC was thereby the first of its kind with such certification.

"The decision to open up our offer to outside companies was made last year. Only our anchor-handling courses remain exclusive to APMM personnel, as Maersk Supply Service considers these skills a particularly strong competitive advantage. Today's market for training services has a high cost of entry and tight margins; we will have the size and strength to make the necessary investments and offer a high level of quality in instruction," said Hans Dürch Bloch-Kjær, Sales and Marketing Manager at MTC.

He reports that the centre has already landed big agreements with customers in Denmark, and expects to win new business in similar markets. Within the next few years, as much as 30 per cent of course attendees may originate from outside the APMM system.

The certification from DNV is a brand new standard for quality assurance in training. DNV had observed that the quality of instruction varied dramatically from training centre to training centre and sought to help both customers and training centres address these quality issues. Its audit of MTC delved into the school's management system, its use of simulators, the structure of its courses and its instructors and classrooms. MTC not only became the first training centre to get this stamp of quality, it did so convincingly, with an unparalleled score of 94 points out of 100, according to Bloch-Kjær.

Simulators in a learning environment

MTC uses simulators in its anchor-handling, liquefied cargo handling, dynamic positioning, reefer operations, drilling, ECDIS and crane operation courses. "There are many elements to a good course offering, and a good simulator is definitely one of them. We aim to offer the best training courses in the market, and we see KONGSBERG's simulators as among the best out there," said Bloch-Kjær.

Frank Madsen of MTC, who is responsible for offshore instruction, explains that all but four of the DP systems used in the Maersk fleet are KONGSBERG. "We use KONGSBERG simulators. I'm a seafarer myself, and I know that the simulator equipment needs to be as real as possible. Then the learning value is much higher."

He explains that the new anchor-handling centre that opens at MTC in early 2009 will feature the latest generation of KONGSBERG simulators. "KONGSBERG has said to us that if they can do this with anchor-handling, then they can do it with anything. In anchor-handling, there are so many forces to consider and the picture is so complex. It is a real challenge," said Madsen.