The training regime for seafarers engaged in LNG bunkering operations includes simulator courses that can substitute for part of mandated shipboard experience
Ensuring the safe delivery of cargo is the primary aim of the LNG shipping industry. A mark of the success achieved by the LNG maritime community in meeting this goal is the exemplary safety record built up over the 54 years that such cargoes have been moved by sea. Over that period no LNG carrier cargo containment system has been breached and no one has lost their life as a result of coming into contact with LNG carrier cargo.
That safety record, unmatched in any other maritime sector, is also a sound indicator of the robustness of the training regime in place for personnel responsible for safely delivering LNG. Various competence standards have been set, appropriate to an individual’s specific involvement with LNGC operations, and this level must be achieved and verified prior to receiving the necessary certification.
The LNG supply chain has spread rapidly in recent years, into the offshore and small-scale sectors, but the use of LNG as marine fuel is currently causing a greater diversification of that LNG-handling network than any other activity.
Quite aside from the staff on the LNG bunker vessel (LNGBV), terminal or road tanker delivering the LNG fuel to the gas-powered ship, the responsible personnel on the ship being fuelled, including the vessel’s master, engineer, manifold watchman and hose watchman, are also brought into the LNG-handling loop. Then there are third parties, such as emergency responders, port authority representatives and national authority inspectors, that need to be familiar with handling LNG to an appropriate level.
Using LNG as marine fuel has necessitated developing a new training regime capable of instilling the same high regard for the safe handling of LNG as the established scheme governing LNG carrier operations. An incident involving LNG fuel on a gas-powered ship would have negative repercussions for the entire LNG shipping industry.
The design and operation of LNG-powered ships are governed by the provisions laid down in the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code), adopted by IMO in 2015. Among the operational provisions are those dealing with training; these were made mandatory in January 2017 when a new Regulation V/3 – Mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of masters, ratings and other personnel on ships subject to the IGF Code – in IMO’s International Convention on Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) entered into force.
Training service providers are assisting shipowners in complying with their STCW Regulation V/3 requirements by providing basic and advanced courses for mariners on IGF Code ships. These are usually three-day courses and some establishments offer combined basic/advanced five-day courses.
The basic course is designed as an entry-level training package for seafarers responsible for designated safety duties associated with the care, use and emergency response to the LNG fuel on board IGF ships. Advanced courses provide a more intensive level of training and are aimed at masters, officers and other personnel with immediate responsibility for the care and use of fuels and fuel systems on IGF ships.
Maritime administrations are also laying down their own conditions governing training, namely that mariners, as part of their Regulation V/3 certification regime spend 30 sea days on an IGF ship.
In order to achieve an advanced certificate endorsement, these sea days must include participation in at least three LNG bunkering operations. The IGF Code states that one of the three fuelling operations can be substituted with a separate IGF simulator course and some flag states allow the use of a simulator as a replacement for two of the three bunkering operations.
Baltic and North Sea trainers
As can be expected in the regions that introduced the first emission control areas and where LNG-powered ships are more prevalent than anywhere else, maritime training establishments in the countries bordering the North and Baltic Seas have been at the forefront in offering IGF training.
Aboa Mare was the first maritime academy in Finland to provide basic and advanced IGF courses. Ship masters, engineer officers and crew involved in bunkering operations on Viikki and Haaga, the two 25,600-dwt LNG-powered bulk carriers built by the Jinling Shipyard at Nanjing in China for ESL Shipping, participated in a combined basic/advanced IGF course as well as in an IGF simulator course at Aboa Mare and Wärtsilä Land and Sea Academy in Turku, Finland in October 2017.
The two dual-fuel bulkers recently made their maiden voyages to their home waters in the northern Baltic Sea by means of a westbound run along the Northern Sea Route in the Russian Arctic. Each ship filled its 400-m3 bunker tank with LNG at a Yangtze River fuelling station before departing China.
Towards the end of 2017, Rotterdam’s STC Group became the first Dutch training institute to commission a bunkering simulator for use with its IGF Code advanced course. The model was developed by Kongsberg Digital as an adjunct to its K-Sim dual-fuel engine simulator platform. The Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate has accredited the STC LNG bunker simulator setup.
Bureau International Marine (BIM) of Antwerp has also introduced LNG bunkering simulator training following a link-up with the Exmar Academy. Recognised by the Belgian Maritime Inspectorate, the training package includes a one-day simulator course aimed at advanced IGF trainees that replaces two of the three bunkering operations required to obtain an endorsement of the relevant certificate of proficiency.
An important client for BIM has been DEME, the Belgian dredging and marine engineering group that has ordered a range of LNG-powered dredging and cable-laying vessels. Combined IGF basic/advanced and simulator courses have been carried out at the shipowner’s premises in Antwerp.
Titan LNG is poised to put its new LNG bunkering pontoon FlexFueler 1 into service by the end of the year. To be based in Amsterdam, the vessel will be equipped with two 380-m3 tanks and will deliver LNG fuel, by means of ship-to-ship (STS) transfers, to gas-powered vessels throughout the Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp region.
In June 2018 Titan LNG concluded a long-term training contract with a consortium comprising Simwave, Transafe and Falck Safety Services. Simwave provides specialist training utilising Kongsberg simulators and will offer Titan LNG and its customers courses on LNG bunker vessel ship handling, STS fuel transfers and engineroom resource management.
As part of the Titan LNG arrangement a full seven-day LNG bunkering safety training programme has been put together, in which the Simwave simulator offerings feature prominently. Simwave has recently opened a new maritime training centre in the Rotterdam suburb of Barendrecht where it now holds the majority of its courses.
Simulator net spreads
As LNG use spreads globally, so does the range of training establishments offering IGF training, including simulator courses.
AMC Search, the commercial arm of the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College, is the first training provider in Australia to be accredited by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority for its IGF Code training. Crews of Searoad Mersey II, a dual-fuel roro cargo ship serving on the Tasmanian Sea crossing, and the LNG-powered Siem Thiima, an offshore supply vessel active off Western Australia, have received training provided by AMC Search.
In the US the American Maritime Officers (AMO) Simulation Training Assessment and Research (STAR) Center has worked with the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) maritime administrator to prepare an IGF training package. In April 2018 the AMO STAR Center’s gas-fuelled vessel course was approved by the RMI, the world’s largest registry for gas carriers. RMI now issues the appropriate STCW endorsements to individuals completing the course at the Dania Beach, Florida training institute.