India looks for answers at home

NUSI’s training facility will assist in growing India’s offshore sector NUSI’s training facility will assist in growing India’s offshore sector

A very sophisticated offshore support training facility has been built, housed not in a high end OEM R&D installation, but in a not-for-profit facility in Mumbai, India. By Stevie Knight

Firstly, the new training facility is the baby of the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI). Captain Nand Hiranandani, NUSI’s chairman describes it as “providing the missing link” for Indian seafarers working in the offshore sector.

To unpick why a union would be involved, you have to look at the pressures. Shravan Rewari, CEO of ARI Simulation explains that national issues around energy security and independence are very strong drivers in India, “at least as strong as any commercial factors”.

He adds that a principally domestic market and the relatively small presence of international oil companies means it rests with India to develop its own capabilities.

To put it in context, he explains the scale is significant: India is the world’s fifth largest importer of LNG for example, but the vast majority of hydrocarbon products are imported with domestic production accounting for less than 20%. Adding to this, the rupee has suffered diminished purchasing power, giving India good reason to try to ramp up domestic production. There’s also a related need to support competence development in offshore shipping among the union’s members, and to promote best practices as these seafarers progress up the chain of command.

One fundamental influence is the division of offshore fields into two distinct segments, explains Mr Rewari. “Western offshore is a traditional shallow water play,” he says, adding that more recently its involved bringing on line a range of marginal fields that wouldn’t have been worth the effort without the extra cost of oil. So, the shallower areas see the more usual deployment of platform supply vessels, anchor handling tug supply vessels and other OSVs operating out of the Mumbai region.

On the other hand, the east coast requires a very different technology base: the depths preclude the use of divers and traditional vessels.

Here the domain is more focused on floating structures, subsea installations at depth and ROV work, often requiring complex vessels, says Mr Rewari. He adds: “The challenges lie in developing the skills and capabilities of Indian offshore personnel to the levels required to embrace these more sophisticated requirements.”

So ARI has created sims which include a range of scenarios relevant to the Indian coast in addition to international offshore locations: “It was necessary to consider the objective requirements of both domestic oil and gas companies (like ONGC) as well as international companies with whom Indian offshore seafarers may well be employed”, says Mr Rewari. More, attention has been given to conversion of competency from cargo shipping to offshore skills.

This tailoring is also reflected in both the functional simulation solutions – anchor handling, offshore crane operations, vessel handling, towing, offshore engine simulation, power management etc, and the configuration of vessel models. It also has solid, hands on equipment interfaced into the sim.

There’s other useful elements: realistic audio enables very discreet modelling of equipment, malfunctions can be reflected in changes to subtle vibrations and sounds: as most engineers will tell you these are important cues. There is also video capture of exercises and new approaches to debriefing of exercises across multiple simulators.

However, unquestionably the most sophisticated training element in the NOTI centre is the ability to play out an integrated scenario. This allows, for example, the simulation of a subsea installation in its entirety; modelling the operation of a subsea crane on a DP vessel involving not just crane operator but also the DPO and bridge team. Further it can also include the ROV mothership and associated teams with the ROV pilot acting as the ‘eyes’ for all parties in the exercise.

All this is interesting, but it would be of limited use if it wasn’t for some kind of certification.

As Mr Rewari notes: “Offshore work is complicated, high risk and challenging though not extensively regulated or certificated; unlike traditional shipping, where virtually every skill set is certified and aligned to a globally recognised industry standard.”

For a long time it’s been down to the vessel owners and operators to develop their own competency mechanisms beyond the standard IMO/STCW certificates (with the notable exception of DP work). So, NOTI has developed a framework of certification in cooperation with DNVGL SeaSkill and will be issuing certificates across each of the training areas: of course, it means a lot of hard work with oil companies, operators and government agencies to make sure that these find international as well as domestic acceptance.

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