Assuring the competence of personnel involved in operating offshore petroleum installations or ships is a challenge. Doing so for dangerous or difficult operations is problematic, as conventional training methods can be prohibited. Using simulation to provide training is a potential solution to this need, particularly for safety critical operations, such as emergency response. This paper describes how simulators are being used to provide training for lifeboat coxswains. An example is presented of the cueing systems, training scenarios, and instructor's role for an immersive lifeboat simulator. Consideration is given to how the virtual environment can be used to extend simulation-based training to larger scale, multi-person emergency response drills.


Training personnel for difficult or safety critical operations, such as emergency response, can be particularly challenging as conventional training methods may be effectively prohibited on ethical, logistical, or financial grounds. Nevertheless, the competence of personnel who work in the offshore petroleum and maritime industries must be assured. To address this need, simulators can be used to expose personnel to various scenarios in a virtual environment, thereby affording an opportunity for trainees to gain " artificial?? experience that can serve to enhance their competence, even in safety critical and dangerous operations. To be effective, training simulators must provide a sufficient level of fidelity to evoke behavioral responses appropriate to the training objectives. This requires a combination of credible training scenarios and embedded cueing systems, integrated by an active instructor.

Our concern here is with training for emergency response. We begin with a focus on marine evacuation and the competence of personnel to safely embark and launch a lifeboat, and then to clear the installation or ship that is being evacuated. Regulations dealing with evacuation training and drills are reviewed to identify where the minimum standards have been set and where the competence gaps persist in practice. The use of an immersive lifeboat simulator as part of an effective competence assurance program is described, along with its key elements: credible training scenarios, cueing systems and instructor's station. A full escape, evacuation and rescue training drill involving offshore and onshore personnel is contemplated near the end of the paper

Competence assurance

Minimum standards of competence for crew expected to operate lifeboats or fast rescue craft are set by international conventions, which are enacted nationally through corresponding regulations or legislation, and may be elaborated upon by complementary industry or company guidelines. The basic international benchmarks for competence are set by the International Maritime Organization's Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention (IMO 1995). Under this regulation, designated personnel must be competent to launch and recover survival craft, including motor propelled lifeboats, in rough seas. To be deemed competent, personnel must show through a practical demonstration that they can prepare the survival craft for launch, launch it, and clear the vicinity of the platform from which the craft was launched. The practical demonstration generally takes the form of drills done initially in a training school and subsequently onboard at regular intervals.

Notwithstanding the requirements of the standards, launching and recovering survival craft in heavy seas is not normally part of a training scheme as such operations have been recognized as dangerous. A lecture on such operations is currently prescribed by the IMO's model training course in lieu of an actual launch (IMO 2000).

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