Industrial Fire Journal - Fire & Rescue - Hemming Group Ltd
Drilling deeply
Published:  11 June, 2009

John Campbell of Stena Drillmax writes about the unprecedented ongoing assessment of the emergency response capabilities in all semi-submersible drilling units and drill ships of Stena Drilling Ltd.

The recent addition of drill ships lead Stena Drilling to re-assess the training needs and competence levels of their current emergency response teams. At present all firefighting teams are trained to a minimum of OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation) standard, with fire team members and leaders undergoing refresher training every two years at an approved training provider onshore, but it was recognised that benefits could be gained from taking the training offshore (ie teams familiar with one an other, working together using recognised equipment in their own workplace environment). 

It was also decided at the embryonic stage of the project to encapsulate the whole fleet and not just the drill ships, as it was felt this would give us a better understanding of our present emergency response capability. 

Through industry experience Stena Drilling has a firm belief that you can never give offshore emergency response teams enough training. Even at this early stage in the project it was seen that this onsite training should be verified by a third party. A decision was made therefore to contact the Falck Nutec fire training facility in Maasvlakte, Rotterdam, and have firefighting assessors come onboard to work alongside myself, John Campbell, Stena Drilling Fleet Fire/Safety Training Officer. After an initial meeting a map was produced that paved a best-fit route for the assessment and training. A schedule was drawn up so each drilling unit would receive a minimum of two visits lasting 10 to 14 days each. This way we envisaged the visits would capture all crews members and give the trainers enough time to assess and give sufficient instruction on the areas requiring attention. 

Areas that the team looked at targeting included emergency control centre (ECC) crisis management and field response.

The trainers set up drills to evaluate and observe the response of senior members of the installation, and to analyse how well they carried out the role of the CMT (crisis management team). A thorough de-brief was held after each drill and any findings discussed with the team followed by recommendations that would strengthen the crisis management team for the future.

ERT personnel assessment

Personnel were assessed on their present knowledge of fire behaviour and the tactics and techniques required for dealing with fire incidents.

First of all a series of questions was given to all individuals, allowing fire trainers/assessors to benchmark the average level of knowledge of all emergency response team (ERT) personnel.

Following the assessment session, immediate theoretical instruction was given to alleviate possible shortfalls in the understanding of basic fire behaviour, including what actions should be deployed to deal with fire situations. 

The practical assessment and training was split into two categories, one for fire team members that encompassed different firefighting tactics and techniques, the use of all firefighting equipment as well as a tour and explanation of the rig’s active fire suppression systems. Areas covered included:

Safe working in smoke filled compartments with SCBA

Different foam application techniques using foam branch pipe as well as conventional fog branch (aspirated, non aspirated)

Safe opening of doors in a suspected fire situation

Quick pulsing with branch pipe against ceilings to prevent flash-overs

Helideck fire fighting tactics and techniques.

For the fire fighting skills, the candidates were given marks varying from 1 to 5, 1 being below average with limited skills, 5 being fully competent (see opposite).

The other practical assessment was for the fire team leaders and members of the technical support team. This last group was assessed on their knowledge of the onboard fire suppression systems, (CO2 system, Hi-fog, X-mist, accommodation sprinkler system and all water deluge systems) also the actual location and the method of activation of all systems. With the drill ships leaving Samsung shipyard with ever more complicated fire suppression systems it was felt that this area should receive more in-depth training.


On-scene Commanders

As well as assessing the On-scene Commander during drills that involved all ERT personnel, additional training was delivered in the form of fire scenarios on a computer by means of a virtual fire simulation program. The animation program enabled us to make animations at any chosen location provided that photography was permitted.

The scenarios were then tailored to local situations onboard the installation, with training in the leadership, tactics and decision-making aspect of fire incidents. This included animations of actual onboard situations with fire and smoke, which made the scenarios as real as possible. It also allowed the OSC to start dynamically risk assessing a situation as it unfolded in front of him. 

After delivery of these animated scenarios it was immediately obvious that the OSC had become more aware of the causes of fire escalation, and was therefore able to direct the fire teams in a more effective manner.


Assessment of active fire protection

During the visits the trainers took time to look over all active fire suppression systems, with instruction given to all technical personnel who might have to activate the system should the rig suffer from a major fire incident. 

Comprehensive testing was also carried out when drilling operations allowed, followed by an in-depth review of vessels safety case and all procedures within the safety management system which referred to the active fire protection.

If it was felt that these needed updating the documents were changed and sent for approval before being uploaded back into the SMS. 

Along with the SMS reviews the project team also spent time looking over the existing operational instructions for system activation and if this was also felt to be to complex or inadequate the team had the instruction rewritten to make them more user-friendly and simpler to understand.

All recommendations and actions that the visits generated were then processed into individual Synergi reports for each specific rig, enabling the actions to be tracked and closed out within specified time-frames, and according to the level of priority. All reports were followed up by regular calls to the rig by the company fire/safety officer.

To date, 13 visits have been accomplished; all the semi-submersible rigs have been completed; and initial visits have been conducted on the two drill ships. The next step is to complete the remaining two visits to the drill ships before joining the next ship (Stena Forth) which leaves South Korea in August.

The response so far from all those taking part in the training has been excellent, the feedback being that the ERT crews are now more confident and aware of the actions they should deploy to cope with any incident they might encounter offshore.


The future

An evaluation meeting was held four weeks ago with Stena and Nutec, and at the meeting both parties agreed that the project had been an outstanding success and that Stena had embarked upon something that no other drilling company had done in recent time.

The “in-situ” fire training/assessments has benefitted the crews by giving them a chance to experience realistic training scenarios as a team and under the supervision of expert fire trainers.

Once this ongoing project is successfully completed and the whole fleet has been visited, it’s envisaged that Stena will then embark on a maintenance phase where the fleet fire trainer accompanied by Nutec personnel will carry out at least two visits per year, ensuring that the competence level of all ERT’s is assessed, recorded and additional training given to fire team members should it be required. This will ensure that the rig/vessel is always in a position to cope with any major fire incident.