Building the skills to drill

The importance of recruiting employees locally in key growth markets is growing and the demand for quality training is high. The first Angolan to take part in a drilling training with Maersk Training, Edson Freitas, tries out a simulator.

Maersk training: Edson Freitas

From Angola to Svendborg

Angola's Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos also had the chance to try out the simulators at Maersk Training’s facility.

The minister’s visit, which also included time in Copenhagen, underlined the close links between Maersk and Angola, and the commitment of both to education and training for local staff to give greater opportunities to more Angolans. 

Maersk Oil entered Angola in 2005 and has since made the Chissonga and Azul discoveries, and has CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programmes to help with schooling, business development training and agro-business. It also has projects for sanitation, hygiene, food and water.

“Maersk Oil is deeply involved in the countries and communities where it works,” says CEO Jakob Thomasen. “Education and training are key for giving more Angolans not just a job, but the skills they need for a career.”

Edson Freitas operates the drilling controls quietly, his movements controlled and calm as alarms alert him to changing pressure and data scrolls by on a screen.

Freitas, a mechanical engineer from Angola, is not offshore on a rig but in the controlled environment of Maersk Training facility in Svendborg, Denmark. 

He’s here as part of Maersk Drilling’s Driller Trainee Programme, which gives greater learning by combining offshore experience with stints of theoretical classroom training, showing the effectiveness of two business units working together to give staff the necessary skills. 

Leading a test run on a drilling simulator under the gaze of class colleagues from around the world and an instructor, Freitas practises avoiding and controlling “kicks”, when pressure differentials build up in a well.

“It was a little stressful because it was my first time alone in the simulator, but the secret is to keep calm and focused,” says Freitas of the exercise – words that apply equally to real-life drilling. 

Angolan focus

Freitas and his group of Maersk Drilling trainees exemplify the importance of recruiting staff locally, and how Maersk Training supports other Group companies. As with many emerging economies, Angola requires that a certain percentage of the workforce be filled by its nationals – in its case, 70%.

The Group has several businesses in Angola, including Maersk Line, Maersk Drilling, Maersk Oil, Maersk Supply Service and Svitzer. The close links between the country and Maersk were shown when Petroleum Minister José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos visited Denmark in November, including a trip to Maersk Training in Svendborg. 

“Education and training give local recruits more opportunities to move into higher skilled and management positions, and provide Maersk with a more stable workforce. It also helps to ensure standards of safety across business units and countries of operation, with the goal of zero incidents,” says Maersk Training CEO Claus Bihl.

Poster image
See Edson Freitas operate the drilling simulator (on his own) for the first time. 01:52

Maersk Training

  • Maersk Training is an independent business unit within the Maersk Group, with worldwide training facilities open to all companies.
  • About 35% of total revenue comes from Maersk companies, and 65% from others, including BP, Statoil, Total, Seadrill, Dong Energy and Siemens.
  • It has centres in Denmark, the UK, India, Dubai, Brazil, Singapore and Norway and is growing rapidly.
  • There are more than 200 different courses based on the conviction that training should be as close to real life as possible, and Maersk Training has invested heavily in building advanced simulators to provide realistic training.

Such training programmes are important support for Maersk Drilling, which aims to become a significant and stable contributor to Group profit by developing and growing its business in ultra deepwater and ultra harsh environments, and for the Group’s focus on growth markets. Freitas is the first Angolan to take part in Maersk Drilling’s driller trainee programme and two of his classmates are the first from the United States.

“Maersk have a high level of training compared with other companies and it really helps you to develop as a person, as well as helping you develop into the position you’re going to take as an assistant driller,” says Coy Chaney from Pennsylvania, who spent eight years in the US Navy before joining Maersk. 

Recruiting from industry

Maersk Training is expanding as it hosts ever more employees of other companies, which trust it to give their staff the necessary skills. Part of its success is a policy to recruit people from industry and training them to become instructors, rather than the other way round, and it targets a doubling of revenue and number of centres by 2020.

Maersk training: Edson Freitas, Brazil

“The reason we are able to attract all these people, both on the employee side but also on the customer basis, is that we’re damn good at what we do,” says Michael Bang, managing director of Maersk Training in Svendborg. 

“You can easily take a good instructor and create a relatively competent person within the industry but it’s better to take a really competent person and then create a good instructor. We spend an awful lot of time on recruiting the right people to do the training,” Bang says.

Building the skills to keep everything safe

Under the watchful gaze of the instructor and his classmates, Freitas flicks switches and pulls on a large brake lever. A rumble builds from the simulator and the class takes a moment to discuss possible warning signs. 

“Drillers work from the open hole, to the completion of the hole. During those times there are a lot of things that we cannot expect, and we must have the skills to control it and keep everything safe,” Freitas says. 

“It is a very good programme, because the learning starts from zero and goes up to the sky.”