Teekay’s newest gas tankers are equipped with Azipod® propulsion systems and classed to Arc7, the highest ice class rating for merchant vessels. “At the start of the project, ABB Marine & Ports’ senior management team spoke with the Yamal LNG joint venture about our training needs with these new vessels,” says Arron Grant, Training and Recruitment Manager, Teekay Gas.
Based on this dialog, ABB compiled a package related to all onboard equipment, not just the Azipod® propulsion. The response has been unconditionally positive.
“Seafarers are very honest people. They tend to say what they think, and we have yet to hear anything negative about ABB training,” Grant observes, referring to both informal feedback from the crew and reviews in the ABB system. “Every single response from our officers on the ABB courses has been at the level of ‘excellent’ and ‘highly recommended’.”
ABB has training centers in seven countries on three continents, all staffed with knowledgeable, highly professional instructors, according to Grant. “Crew members typically attend training courses during their shore leave. They wouldn’t spend two weeks away from their families if they didn’t feel that the training was beneficial, and that is an extremely high standard to meet.”
Ship as a unit
The expanded training package was built on ABB’s dedicated training for their own equipment. Courses for Teekay now address the various aspects of the machinery space, including propulsion, marine drives, generators and high voltage. “They bring it all together, addressing the ship as a unit,” says Grant. “One day we might focus on a certain element, then look at how it links into related equipment. This gives the crew perspective on how the whole vessel can be affected by a single fault.”
“We are always looking for gaps in officer training and developing new measures to cover these gaps when we find them,” Grant says. “This means going beyond the standard requirements. ABB training places the crew in challenging situations in order to be sure that they are capable of handling any emergency that may arise on board.”
Many tasks – one team
On board a ship, deck and engineering officers have responsibility for different tasks, but ABB training emphasizes commonality among all crew. “The bridge is focused on operations and management, and the machine room handles the equipment. The holistic approach encourages collaboration between the different groups on diagnosing and fixing problems,” Grant explains. “This is a very insightful approach to training. Some programs separate the bridge from the engineers, but you can’t run a modern ship based on this type of dichotomy.”
He also notes the importance of acknowledging the cultural differences between groups in the team. “This comes down understanding the day-to-day workings on board a ship. There are many subcultures on board, but the crew has to come together to create a common culture of safety.”
Based on this insight, Teekay is increasingly promoting the concept of Operational Leadership. “In this model, all crew members are accountable to each other. There are no restrictions on input. Anyone can suggest improvements or report an unsafe act, or simply ask questions,” says Grant.
The training is not exclusive to new hires – veteran officers are also invited to participate. “This applies mostly to those sailing on Yamal ships, but training in Singapore applies to other ships as well. Everyone can benefit from the training package,” says Grant.
With reliance on technology growing, companies risk losing sight of the importance of the human factor, Grant reflects. “Every aspect of operations has a human element, and human error is behind 9 of 10 faults. We are working continuously with ABB to address this issue.” More than just dealing with emergencies like firefighting or abandoning ship, he maintains that soft skills must be applied to everyday life on board: “It’s about keeping the human element front of mind in everything we do.”
Managing the extremes
While sailing the Northern Sea Route is not a completely new concept, liquified natural gas (LNG) transport is new to the Arctic, Grant points out. “These are fast vessels, and even with the highest ice class, the risks are not lost on us. We need to provide the highest level of training, equipment, and support in order to give the crew the best chance to operate successfully in these extreme conditions.”
Knowledge of sophisticated equipment is essential, but preparing for the extreme climate is an equally important part of polar survival training, he adds. “Even the tour lengths have been adjusted to adapt to the northern environment, taking into account the effect of extreme light and cold on the crew.”
ABB also offers Azipod® space safety training. “Inside the pod is a very demanding machinery space requiring specialized skills and knowledge,” says Grant. “Some of our officers were unsure whether ABB’s training was relevant, or whether it would just be a repeat of Teekay’s own enclosed space training. After having completed the ABB program, all of the participants felt that ABB had added something new.”
Building on trust
“Trust is a factor from day one, in all our communications with OEMs. We get an impression of how they operate, and what their standards are,” Grant relates. “Our level of confidence in ABB is based on their response to our needs. They are consistently prompt, proactive, and professional.”
Teekay regularly presents ABB with changing requirements. “It has never been a problem to implement changes underway, and 99 percent of our change requests have been met. All this helps to build trust in the relationship.”