A free fall practice run

Maersk Training has opened the first freefall lifeboat simulator in Northern Europe at its new centre in Esbjerg harbour. The facility is booked by Maersk Oil for the first four years and will make lifeboat training more effective and efficient.

Freefall
Rather than releasing a lifeboat from height and allowing it to dive into the water – a common means of escape from offshore installations, but one which risks injury to those inside – the simulator allows people to train in an accurate copy of reality that is 100% secure and is more efficient.

Black smoke plumes from a supply ship that is slowly sinking at the head, while a drilling rig tilts over into the sea. Between the two, a sharp-nosed orange lifeboat is navigating between steep waves as the rain pours down.

This is not real life, thankfully, but the recreation on a screen of what is going on inside a box in a corner of a classroom. The simulator at a new Maersk Training centre in Esbjerg is allowing realistic, safe and more efficient lifeboat training for offshore workers, and means Maersk Oil can better prepare its staff for emergency situations.

Lifeboat

Freefall lifeboats

  • Freefall lifeboats, stored on a downward sloping slipway, drop into the water from a height as a holdback is released
  • They are used for their capability to launch nearly instantly and high reliability in any conditions and are common on offshore oil platforms and rigs
  • Considerably heavier than regular lifeboats, they are strongly constructed to survive the impact with water
  • Occupants are subjected to powerful forces and though the lifeboats are equipped with restraints to minimise the impact, injuries can still occur during launch

Rather than releasing a lifeboat from height and allowing it to dive into the water – a common means of escape from offshore installations, but one which risks injury to those inside – the simulator allows people to train in an accurate copy of reality that is 100% secure and is more efficient, because it can be reset again and again.

“We set a high standard of technology and training to give a better learning experience,” says Frank Holst Christoffersen, Managing Director of Maersk Training in Esbjerg. “With this simulator, we can better train participants in different scenarios – whether rigs or ships – and in all kinds of weather conditions, and different types of incidents.”

Welcome to Esbjerg
The black cubic building at the tip of the harbour, emblazoned with Maersk Training’s logo, is the first thing ships see as they come into Esbjerg, along with the scaffolding of a lifeboat training pod above the water.

The classes held at the edge of the land will support Maersk Oil’s Danish operations, with everybody on the offshore duty roster coming through.

“Maersk Training is an important partner for the Esbjerg municipality and many big companies in the area,” says Johnny Søtrup, the Mayor of Esbjerg. “It provides the training for people to work offshore and brings jobs to the community.”

Poster image
Watch how the simulator works 1:12

Maersk Oil in Denmark

  • Maersk Oil is the largest operator in Denmark. Its biggest partnership is the Danish Underground Consortium (DUC), where 85% of the oil and 97% of the gas export stems from
  • It produces a mixture of oil and gas from 15 fields in Denmark, with Esbjerg as the main hub
  • Production peaked in 2005 and has since been on a natural decline. In 2014, Maersk Oil operated production of 140,000 barrels of oil per day and 370 million standard cubic feet of gas per day in Denmark

The centre means that three separate courses – lifeboat captain, man overboard and freefall lifeboat – can be combined, meaning offshore workers have more comprehensive training and it is more efficient as it can be completed in three days rather than five. Maersk Oil has 500-600 employees booked for the next four year period. After that there will be refresher courses, taking one day compared with the previous three.

Diving from height
Trainees can be repeatedly exposed to emergency evacuation situations, high seas and extreme weather scenarios not possible to train in conventional lifeboat coxswain training programmes. There are three seats inside the box, one for the lifeboat captain and two for passengers along with safety belts.

Freefall 4

The box does not move, but screens in place of the windows give a lifelike impression of being released from height, diving under water and resurfacing, without having to experience the powerful forces for real.

“Maersk Training has shown the flexibility,” says Susanne Isaksen, Administrative Support, Competence and Training Manager at Maersk Oil’s Danish Business Unit in Esbjerg. “We had some ideas and they were able to fulfil them, and working together across the Group means the businesses can support each other and make our operations safer and more efficient.”