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Marine Electronics & Communications

Tales of the unexpected – simulators create a safe space for LNG training

Mon 23 Oct 2017 by Karen Thomas

Tales of the unexpected – simulators create a safe space for LNG training
Simulators offer a safe space to tackle dangerous scenarios at sea (credit: Exmar)

Shipmanagers and training providers are expanding their simulator-based LNG-handling courses as LNG carriers and offshore projects call out for more LNG-qualified seafarers and as general demand grows for crew trained to handle LNG as marine fuel.

Worse things happen at sea, according to the old naval adage. But the good news is, very few bad things are completely unforeseen. Training and preparation ensure that crew react quickly and efficiently to difficult or unexpected events – and that’s where simulators come in.

Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (BSM) has invested heavily in India-based simulator training. Maritime Training Centre director Brijendra Srivastava is supervising around 10 LNG training courses a year around the world, for BSM and for third parties such as Flex LNG, Nakilat and Thenamaris, using LICOS and LCH simulation.

Mr Srivastava has seen demand this year for LNG membrane simulator training, as most recent deliveries feature GTT Mark III or No 96 membrane containment systems. A five-day simulator course will generally cover the complete drydock-to-drydock cycle, he says.

“It follows the initial familiarisation of the simulator, inerting the vessel, gassing up, cooling down, loading, topping up the tanks, loaded passage, discharging, stripping or heel-out, warming up the tanks, leak detection, then back to drydock,” he says.

“This risk-free training is the major advantage of using simulators. Our LICOS simulators enable the instructor to cause apparent equipment failures during all stages of operations to teach the trainees how to react in unexpected and unusual situations, including cases they may never experience in real life.”

BSM plans to launch in-house IGF Code courses, basic and advanced, to meet slow but steady growth in the LNG-fuelled non-LNG-carrier fleet. This will incorporate Standards in Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and Society of Gas as Marine Fuel competencies for commercial ships that need gas-trained engineering officers and crew.

Next up, it will develop simulator training for dual-fuel, diesel-electric propulsion systems to meet the terms of the IGF Code and of the 2020 sulphur cap. “A lot of new LNG membrane ships are being delivered,” Mr Srivastava concludes.

“Vessels operating engines with LNG as a fuel have a variety of fuel-tank types and are becoming more common as companies realise the drawbacks of exhaust gas scrubbers and face the reality that the shipping industry will not be allowed to consume high-sulphur fuel after 2020.

“Further, as the need for low-sulphur fuels continues, BSM is developing a gas-supply vessel to provide bunkering for ships with LNG as a fuel. This will also require specialist training for our crew.”

BSM’s solution? It will upgrade its LNG simulators to develop new training modules, launching a dedicated training school on board its LNG newbuilding for trainees to complete the STCW advanced course, the Society of International Gas Tanker and Terminal Operators (SIGTTO) advanced competency syllabus and the LICOS simulator while they get to grips with operating this new type of ship.

Fuelling demand

The new STCW requirements on handling LNG and other low-flashpoint fuels that have taken effect this year are driving growth in interest in specialist simulator training.

Norway-based Kongsberg Digital reports growing demand for simulator training to handle LNG as marine fuel. Product manager maritime simulation Leif Pentti Halvorsen has delivered LNG cargo-handling models to customers in Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, the US and Canada so far this year.

Kongsberg offers maritime LNG training to IMO and SIGTTO standards. Simulators create a safe space to expose trainees to events that – in real life – would be dangerous or costly.

“The LNG cargo-handling simulators are designed to train for the handling of cargoes with extreme temperatures that may easily damage tanks or the hull structure of the ship, by the cargo boiling off too fast, creating over-pressure, or if a tank is cooled down too fast, creating a vacuum,” Mr Halvorsen says.

“The simulator is a tool to practice how to be in control at all times, to prevent ventilation to atmosphere, resulting in loss of cargo… At the very start of loading and discharging, this can be a challenge.”

Kongsberg’s simulators allow trainees to practise lining up for loading and ballast-handling simultaneously, checking the atmosphere, controlling the flow into each cargo tank, monitoring the trim or list of the ship and controlling the atmospheric pressure and temperature throughout the operation.

Other packages focus on handling inert tanks after docking, cool-down before loading by using spray systems and venting inert tanks for inspection or docking. Kongsberg is shaping future training to meet demand from ferry and cruiseship owners investing in LNG as marine fuel.

“Also coming up is the need for understanding and operation of two-stroke engines using gas as fuel,” Mr Halvorsen says.

Kongsberg is working to ensure that its simulators cover all possible LNG carrier designs, configurations, engine and control equipment, as well as all the major training scenarios.

This summer it launched a dual-fuel LNG model for cruiseships and ferries for the K-Sim engine simulator. The package covers the main training requirements for a 55,000 gt, 218m cruise ferry fitted with Wärtsilä’s 8L50-DF medium-speed, four-stroke dual-fuel engines that generate power to a high-voltage switchboard.

So far, the package is available in the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Denmark and Taiwan.

Scottish cluster

Glasgow-based Stream Marine Training (SMT) has teamed up with Belgium-based CryoAdvise and industrial gas supplier BOC to develop Scotland’s first specialist LNG training course.

The course aims to drive safety standards for LNG operations. SMT’s course, which includes cryogenic testing, launched with CALMAC ferries. Caledonian Maritime has ordered two dual-fuel ferries, to be built by Ferguson Marine on the River Clyde.

SMT is delivering the course monthly, but can also offer it on demand. The course introduces LNG and the drivers for using it as a fuel. It covers the properties, ecology, hazards, regulations and economic facts associated with LNG.

By this autumn, SMT had trained 150 people. It hopes to train up to a thousand in the medium term, and is developing a specialist simulator programme for crew working on LNG-fuelled ferries, modelled on the cargo containment and cargo-transfer systems of Viking Grace. SMT runs some 30 accredited courses for more than 100 clients, including Disney Cruises, Caledonian MacBrayne and P&O Ferries. 

Scotland is positioning itself as a North Sea LNG bunkering and small-scale distribution hub. BSM, ExxonMobil, Babcock International and Calor Gas have launched Caledonia LNG, an Orkney-based venture.

And shipowner Stolt-Nielsen may base one of the two 7,500 m³ LNG bunker-supply ships it has ordered from Keppel Singmarine at the Port of Rosyth. Stolt-Nielsen is working with UK LNG importer Flogas to develop Rosyth as a distribution hub.

Reflecting this flurry of interest in LNG, Glasgow Maritime Academy is also developing courses for non-LNG crew to handle gas as marine fuel.

Spanish eyes

In Spain, Siport 21 has expanded training at its Real-time Ship Simulation Centre to meet growing demand for LNG safety training for floating regasification and storage units, notably at Argentina’s Bahia Blanca and Escobar LNG terminals and at Port Qasim in Pakistan.

The simulation facility has trained more than 1,100 seafarers on a programme approved by DNV GL. Siport has also stepped up its training for masters, officers and pilots relating to ship manoeuvers and emergencies.

Simulator centre clients include BG, BW Fleet Management, Höegh LNG, BP, Stena, Knutsen, Exmar Shipmanagement, Gaslog, Golar LNG, Dynagas, Nakilat, K Line, Mitsui OSK LNG, NYK LNG, Shell, Teekay and Thenamaris LNG. Siport 21 was founded in 1999.

Siport 21 carries out technical studies for clients in Spain and overseas. It has trained pilots based at ports all over the world and tug masters from firms including SAAM, Svitzer, Reyser, Tramarsa, Intertug, Coltugs, Coremar and Spilbun-Both.

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