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Lifeboat Simulation – The Safe Alternative1 Capt. Anthony Patterson President and CEO, Virtual Marine Technology Inc. Abstract The ability to launch and operate lifeboats in the event of an emergency is a safety critical competence. International training standards established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), require that seafarers are trained to operate lifeboats and to maintain proficiency through regular drills onboard the ship. The ability to launch under high sea states is one of the competencies required under the international standards, however there has not been any safe means for seafarers to demonstrate their competence using real equipment. As a result, seafarers are only required to describe how they would launch under rough conditions without providing a practical demonstration of their abilities. In addition, recent accidents have highlighted the dangers of conducting practice launches using real equipment even under calm conditions. Notwithstanding the difficulties in providing practical training for seafarers to operate lifeboats under adverse conditions, it is part of their duties that they are able to do so. In the worst case, they will be asked to launch under extremely hazardous conditions in which they have never operated and are ill prepared. The result is often catastrophic. The international community is seeking an alternative to live launches in order to demonstrate and ensure the proficiency of crews is maintained. Simulation, which has been used in the marine industry for the training of officers for many years, offers a potential solution which is safe and effective. Escape, Evacuation, Survival and Rescue In the unlikely event of an incident at sea, all seafarers must be prepared to deal with the emergency, and – if required – abandon their vessel and survive until rescue. Since such instances of distress are rare, seafarers must rely on training and continual practice (through drills) to ensure that they are prepared should an incident occur. Once containment of the event (fire, flooding, etc.) is no longer possible, the main goals of the seafarer are escape, evacuation, survival and rescuei. The ability to take quick action is paramount. Gaps in training and practice drills can result in the seafarer being unprepared and unable to deal with the situation. The goals of training regulations and standards are to ensure 1 Originally published in the 2007 Proceedings of the Company of Master Mariners of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Division. that the likelihood of a training gap is minimized, and that seafarers are competent to react to a wide range of foreseeable emergencies. Regulation and Training The two primary Conventions established by the international community to ensure that seafarers are competent and prepared to evacuate a vessel in the event of an emergency are the Seafarers’ Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) and the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Conventions. STCW sets the requirements for initial and refresher trainingii while SOLAS sets the requirements for on-board drillsiii. Requirements for workers in the offshore oil and gas industry are contained in guidelines issued by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in Assembly Resolution A.891(21) Recommendations on Training of Personnel on Mobile Offshore Units (MOUs)iv. STCW and Training Table A-VI/2-1 of the STCW Code outlines the minimum standard competence for seafarers in the operation of survival craft and rescue boats. The table lists five (5) core competencies which are further broken down into twenty (20) sub-elements. Given the nature of operating survival craft, the standard demands a practical demonstration of the competencies using real equipment. Guidance for training providers is published by the IMO in the form of model courses. Model courses are developed by member countries and are the template courses for many countries when they approve their local training providers. The Government of India developed Model Course 1.23 Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats other than Fast Rescue Boats and was published by the IMO in 2000. While the IMO sets training standards, it is the responsibility of each individual country to issue regulations and enforce the standards within their jurisdiction. Within Canada, the primary instruments related to survival craft training are the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 (CSA 2001), the Marine Personnel Regulations (MPR), and the technical publication Marine Emergency Duties Training Courses (TP 4957). Other countries will have a similar set of regulations as Canada to enact the IMO standards. The CSA 2001 enables the Minister of Transport to make regulations regarding the training and certification of seafarersv and requires Masters of Canadian ships to ensure that all crew members carry valid certificatesvi. The MPR identifies the minimum standard of training for officers and crews on board Canadian ships. MPR essentially enacts the STCW Code in Canada, as well as incorporates A.891(21) into Canadian legislation for the domestic offshore oil and gas industry. TP 4957 sets the detailed training requirements for course providers accredited to issue Canadian training certificates. TP 4957 incorporates much of Model Course 1.23, but also contains some elements unique to Canada and its operational environment. SOLAS and Drills While STCW ensures that crew members have demonstrated their competence in the operation of survival craft, SOLAS ensures they develop and maintain proficiency in operating the craft on their particular vessel. Until recently, Regulation 19 under SOLAS Chapter III required that at least one (1) lifeboat be lowered each month with its operating crewvii, and that each lifeboat be lowered, released and maneuvered by its crew at least once every three (3) monthsviii. Special provisions are made for freefall lifeboats that only require a full launch every six (6) months or twelve (12) months in the case where appropriate arrangements are made for a simulated launch every six (6) monthsix. In Canada, the provisions for on-board drills are contained in the Boat and Fire Drill and Means of Exit Regulations. Section 18 of the regulations essentially repeats the SOLAS provisions by requiring each davit launched lifeboat to be launched and maneuvered in the water with its assigned crew at least once every three (3) monthsx and every freefall lifeboat to be launched and maneuvered every six (6) monthsxi. The need to periodically practice launching lifeboats with crew on board poses some significant safety hazards. A study published by the United Kingdom’s Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), in 2001, noted that sixteen percent (16%) of the total lives lost over a ten (10) year period were due to practice launches and on-board inspectionsxii. The MAIB report has triggered significant changes in the regulatory environment. The IMO has issued cautions about the risks involved with drillsxiii, and has implemented revisions to SOLAS which no longer require that practice launches be conducted with crew onboardxiv. The ability to conduct drills using real equipment is certainly constrained with the new SOLAS provisions. The decision to conduct a practice launch with crew onboard is left up to the Master who must also take into account the occupational health and safety implications of a crewed launch. Health and safety considerations, whether required through onboard International Safety Management (ISM) procedures or through national legislation (e.g.: Canada Labour Code), counter-balance the perceived operational or training benefits associated with having the crew onboard for a practice launch. In fact, mariners view the new requirements effectively ban crewed launches during drills. While it may be feasible to conduct a practice in ideal conditions (after a thorough risk assessment is done and after a test lowering of the boat with no crew), it is unthinkable that a practice launch would occur in difficult conditions (high seas, night, etc.). The Training Gap The requirement under the STCW Code for a practical demonstration of the competence to operate survival craft immediately poses problems for those tasks that are too hazardous to perform in a training environment. In particular, students cannot demonstrate the “methods of launching survival craft into a rough sea”. The prescribed training for rough weather launching is a lecturexv. The inability to practice for difficult launch conditions during onboard drills only reinforces the gap in training where difficult training launches are also avoided because they are too risky. As a result, the only time that a seafarer will be able to practically demonstrate their competence in rough weather launching is during an actual emergency. By then, it is probably too late. The solution to the problem of safe but realistic training appers to be a simulator. Simulators are already used in the marine industry to train ship’s officers to work under unusual and fault conditions that would be too dangerous to practice using real equipment. Can simulation be used to train seafarers how to launch lifeboats? Simulation and Behaviour Dr. Lochlan Magee, the head of simulation and modeling for the Canadian military, described a simulator as a “human factors interface to a mathematical model”. Dr. Magee’s description captures the two fundamental requirements for a marine simulator defined by STCW, namely: 1) it must possess sufficient physical realism to 2) provoke an appropriate behavioral responsexvi. Realism is normally sub-divided into two separate elements: mathematical realism and cueing realism. Mathematical realism relates to how the real world is represented mathematically in the simulator. Mathematical realism typically includes hydrodynamic properties of the vessel, environmental properties (waves for example), and navigation sensor properties. A key requirement for the mathematical models is that they must operate in real-time. Mathematical realism can be objectively measured. Cueing realism, on the other hand, relates to how the person using the simulator is stimulated (or cued) to perceive the virtual world. Cueing realism relates to sights, sounds, motions, smells, feel, etc. Cueing realism cannot be measured objectively and is evaluated subjectively. An appropriate behavior response relates to how the student reacts to the simulator. When a student is cued by the simulator, they should react in the same way as they would if a similar cue happened in real-life. As a simple example, suppose a student is trying to maintain a steady course. If the student sees the boat’s head drift to port, then it is expected that they would apply starboard helm to counteract the yaw. In a more complicated operation like launching a lifeboat into rough seas, there are a large number of tasks that must be performed in a certain manner given a certain situation. The simulator must provide sufficient cues for the student to recognize the situation and to take appropriate actions. Simulators that trigger appropriate behavioral response can be used by students to learn and to demonstrate their competence to perform tasks as an alternative to using real equipment. Training simulators do not have to be an exact replica of the real-world; they only have to be realistic enough so that what you learn in a simulator - you can use in the real-world. It follows that the more complicated the training requirement, the more sophisticated the simulator. A key task to implement simulation into a training program is to match realism to training objectives, and to strike a balance between mathematical and cueing realism. For marine training simulators a commonly used fidelity scale is: full mission (a high fidelity replica of the real-world intended for advanced training); multi-task (a medium fidelity replica of the real-world intended for operational training); limited-task (a partial replica of the real-world intended to develop basic skills); and, special-task or single-task (specialized simulator to teach particular skills)xvii. In 2004, Memorial University’s Marine Institute and Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, together with the National Research Council of Canada, began a project to build a prototype lifeboat launch simulator. Financing for the project was provided by Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada (PRAC) and the Government of Canada’s Program of Energy Research and Development (PERD) program. The project was an extension of previous work conducted by Memorial University and the National Research Council to measure the performance of lifeboats and their launching systems at model scale. During the model scale trials, the research team noted that the technician who launched the simulator became more adept with practicexviii. The team hypothesized that the same improvement in learning could occur through the use of a numerical simulator. One of the first jobs performed by the project team was to conduct a thorough analysis of the tasks required to launch a davit launched lifeboat from an oil rig. Once the task list was determined, then the functional requirements for the simulator were determined. The team concluded that a full mission simulator would be required in order to achieve the training objective of learning how to launch into a high sea state. Once the functional requirements were established, the main tasks performed included the development of a mathematical model based on the model experiments; development of a full scale cueing system for the coxswain’s position in a generic lifeboat; and development of an instructor station that could trigger fault conditions during the simulation and record student performance. The prototype simulator was built to conform to the open architecture standard published by the US Department of Defense, High level Architecture (HLA), which required the components to be built with a high degree of modularityxix. The modularity of the system was demonstrated when the system was adapted to replicate an entirely different class of vessel (a 7m RHIB) for the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary. The lifeboat simulator was completed in 2005, and is currently located at the Offshore Safety and Survival Centre (OSSC) in St. John’s. The original lifeboat simulator continues to be used to evaluate the effectiveness of simulation in lifeboat launching courses. Commercialization of the technology is being conducted by Virtual Marine Technology Inc. under license from Memorial University and the National Research Council of Canada. Implementing the Simulation Alternative The author believes that simulation is a valid, safe and cost effective method to teach students how to launch and maneuver a lifeboat, especially under harsh or fault conditions. Simulators can be used both in the initial training phase and as a safe alternative to crewed launches during drills. In order for simulation to become widely adapted by the marine industry, there are a few elements which should be addressed. STCW envisions the use of simulators in a wide range of training applications as long as the simulation based training program is approved by the local Administration (Transport Canada in the case of Canada). Individual Administrations determine if simulation is appropriate for a given training program, usually after considering if the simulator meets the functional requirements specified in Section A-I/12 of the STCW Code. STCW indicates when simulation is a suitable method of demonstrating competence by adding the phrase “approved simulator training, where appropriate” in column III (Methods of Demonstrating Competence) in the detailed competency tables. Unfortunately, Table A-VI/2-1 - which includes lifeboat launching – does not include the simulation phrase. STCW needs to be amended to make it clear that simulators can be used to train seafarers to launch lifeboats as long as they are approved and appropriate. The Government of Canada has submitted such an amendment for consideration at the 39th Session of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Standards of Training and Watchkeeping (STW) in March 2008xx. Amending the STCW code to permit lifeboat simulation should trigger a review of the existing IMO Model Course 1.23 to make the necessary amendments to accommodate simulation based training. In particular, practical demonstration of heavy weather launching using a simulator should be recommended rather than a lecture on launch techniques. National training standards, such as TP 4957, should also be reviewed to shift rough weather launch training from lectures to demonstration in a simulator. Such revisions to the template training standards will bring the training regimes into alignment with Table A-VI/2-1 of the STCW Code that envisions practical demonstration for all aspects of lifeboat launching. Once simulation is accepted as a training method for lifeboat crews, Administrations will need to approve individual simulation based training programs. Before approval can be given, the Administration will need to be satisfied that the simulator meets the functional requirements defined in STCW, especially the two core requirements of physical and behavioral realism. Administrations can conduct their own assessment, or in some cases, accept a certification from Det Norske Veritias (DNV) that the simulator meets the requirements of guidance document 2.14 Certification of Maritime Simulator Systems. In either event, the accreditation criteria for lifeboat launch simulators do not currently exist and need to be developed. Memorial University of Newfoundland is presently conducting research to identify appropriate accreditation criteria. The use of simulators in drills can proceed in a similar manner as with training. SOLAS currently permits ‘simulated’ launches of freefall lifeboats in lieu of actual launches with crews. In the case of freefall lifeboats, the simulation envisioned is not a numerical simulation but rather a means to trap the boat and prevent it from launching from the ship. Regulation 19 of SOLAS should be amended such that practice using a suitable numerical simulator would be accepted in lieu of crewed launches. The simulator could be carried on board or brought to the ship’s side during port visits. The use of numerical simulators for practice drills would certainly exceed what is currently possible; eliminate a critical safety issue of crewed launches; and, significantly raise the preparedness of the crew to react to an emergency. VMT is currently developing a mobile system designed for practice drills. Finally, continued refinement of lifeboat simulation needs to be conducted. MUN, NRC, and VMT are currently engaged in a three (3) year collaborative program to investigate enhanced cueing systems (including motion cueing); improved mathematical models; improved briefing and debriefing tools; and human behavior in simulated environments. Funding for the program comes from the Atlantic Innovation Fund, PRAC, and VMT. It is expected that the development of a full mission Freefall Launch Simulator will be added to the program in the near future. Simulation provides a safe alternative to crewed launches for lifeboat training and practice. Through the use of simulators, seafarers can become better prepared to deal with the unlikely event of abandoning their vessel. With practice will come proficiency and confidence in the ability to evacuate. Endnotes i The National Research Council of Canada and Memorial University of Newfoundland have been conducting extensive research in Escape, Evacuation and Rescue for the offshore oil and gas industry. For more information on their program visit the NRC website at http://iot-ito.nrc- cnrc.gc.ca/eer/home_e.html. ii Regulation VI/2 Proficiency in Survival Craft Rescue Boats and Fast Rescue Boats sets the broad requirements while Table A-VI/2-1 in the Code specifies the minimum standard of competence in survival craft and rescue boats other than fast rescue boats. iii Chapter III, Lifesaving Appliances and Arrangements, Regulation19 sets the requirements for onboard drills. iv Section 5.3.3 indicates that a regular program of drills and exercises should be conducted. Section 184.108.40.206 indicates that non-marine personnel who are taking charge of a lifeboat be trained in accordance with the STCW requirements. Guidance on how to conduct drills and exercises is contained in an Appendix. v CSA 2001 Part 3, Section 100. vi CSA 2001 Part 3, Section 82.(1). vii SOLAS Chapter III, Regulation 19, Section 220.127.116.11. viii SOLAS Chapter III, Regulation 19, Section 3.3.3. ix SOLAS Chapter III, Regulation 19, Section 3.3.4. x Boat and Fire Drill and Means of Exit Regulations Section 18.(2).e. xi Boat and Fire Drill and Means of Exit Regulations section 18.(2).f. xii Safety Study 1/2001, Review of Lifeboat launch Systems’ Accidents. xiii See MSC.1/Circ.1206: Measures to Prevent Accidents with Lifeboats. xiv Section 3.3.3 of SOLAS Chapter III, Regulation 19 was amended by Resolution MSC.152(78) on May 20, 2004 and came into effect on July 1, 2006. xv See Model Course 1.23, Element 6.5 and TP 4957, Paragraph 11.6, Section 13.1 xvi See STCW Code Section A-I/12, Standards governing the use of simulators, for a full list of requirements. Most notable is the requirement for a fully functioning instructor station. xvii Stephen J. Cross & Martin Olofsson. Classification of Maritime Simulators, the Final Attempt: Introducing DNV’s New Standard. (MARSIM , 2002). Also see Det Norske Veritas Certification of Maritime Simulator Systems No. 2.14 for an example of a classification system. xviii Brian Veitch, Randy Billard and Anthony Patterson. Evacuation training using immersive simulators. Submitted for publication at 2008 Offshore Technology Conference, Houston. xix IEEE Standard 1516 has superseded the original US DoD HLA Standard. xx See paper STW 39/7/43, December 27, 2007.
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