Reality is Virtually Here

The old phrase, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ needs the rider, ‘and the grandmother of innovation’ when it comes to the on-going technological challenge of training for the oil & gas, maritime and wind industries. There is an image which we share here. A phone handset held aloft by a piece of rope which is tied to a pipe in the ceiling. It still hangs in an un-used room in the cellar of Maersk Training in Svendborg. Around it, in an area too clean to gather dust, two chairs face aftward in what is tech-equipped as a mini bridge.

In 1998 guests and participants stared in awe at what was the solution to a major training problem. Up until then there was no platform for winch operators and navigators to do what they did in real life, cooperate in anchor-handling situations. The real life result was that accidents and damage were all too frequent on board supply vessels.

What’s in the Black Book?

Simulation had been about for years in terms of relatively simple manoeuvring, but there was no way of representing wire-scoping over the stern and the external forces it created and how it affected performance and safety. The instructors opened a ‘black book’ into which they logged all accidents and mishaps in terms of their dollar significance – by 2006 it ran to many hundreds of millions.

Dynamic Positioning was added in 2003, but it was already becoming clear that technology, in terms of screen resolution and graphics, were racing ahead of what the cellar-based simulator could offer.

The decision was taken to create a new focus in training, a purpose-built complex with four bridges simulators, the main one being a full 360˚experience; all supplied with the most current bridge-issue equipment. Somewhere along the road the building became known as the Maersk Offshore Simulation And Innovation Centre, MOSAIC.

‘We had the offshore support vessels, but we needed the “things” they needed to support to actively interact, so we got a jack-up rig to tow around and a semi-sub rig to run anchors from. We started doing jacking training, tow mastering and dynamic positioning in an offshore environment including deepwater drilling’ says Operations Manager, Tonny Møller.

Going Global

Tonny Møller has been deeply involved for almost two decades in the project which has grown from a solution in a converted storeroom to entire purpose-built complexes in Aberdeen, Houston, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and where it all started, Svendborg in Denmark.

The project which started in a cellar chasing technology was now employing it as its servant. A second MOSAIC was commissioned in order to add to the realism of the scenarios.

‘MOSAIC 2 was actually just meant to be a drilling simulator connected to Bridge A in the original MOSAIC, and it could easily have been just that. But then we added the engine room and the crane because dynamic positioning is worth nothing without the engine room support. Now we are going into dive support, subsea support where the crane is putting down ‘Christmas trees’ – here the cooperation between the crane driver and the DP operator is crucial,’ says Tonny.

And Tomorrow…

So where, or what, next? Looking into the future Tonny sees technology placing training on new levels. ‘Virtual reality will be the big thing,’ says Tonny. ‘BOP for example, one client had 18 days of downtime because the BOP failed and the spare BOP wasn’t in order. With a virtual reality room they could go in and rehearse changing that gasket to totally understand what was needed, the time saved from downtime would have paid for the investment.’

In the meantime the investment that Maersk Training has made through invention and innovation, virtually worldwide, is becoming reality.