Publication: Oil and Gas Bulletin; Date: Dec 1, 2010; Section: News; Page: 7

Survival at sea course offered

While helicopter travel to offshore facilities in the oil and gas industry has a high safety record, adequate training for emergency situations covering all scenarios is essential to maintaining a safe working environment for the offshore worker.

    The Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) is the industry’s solution to this.

    HUET is a program designed to provide training associated with helicopter escape and follow-on sea survival, designed specifically for the operation’s location, to everyone who ventures offshore for work within the industry.

    For the young first-time engineer or artisan going offshore, HUET and the simulation of emergency situations involved in the training can be a daunting experience.

    However the state-of-the-art facilities and training provided for HUET and sea survival training, helps make completing the course a more straightforward experience.

    Godwin Stephen, a mechanical graduate from Production Services Network (PSN), recently completed his training at the Sea Survival Training Centre, West Sale in Victoria, just seven months after finishing university.

    Mr Stephen felt positive about his exposure to HUET training in preparation for going offshore on Esso’s Bass Strait platforms.

    “Travelling to offshore platforms is a beneficial experience for young engineers working in the oil and gas industry,” he said.

    Mr Stephen said that doing the training prior to going offshore helped him put aside some of the uncertainties he had about travelling in a helicopter, as he had never done so before. However, he was apprehensive about some of the more complicated training activities included in the course.

    “The prospect of being dunked in water while upside-down and escaping from a submerged helicopter seemed challenging.

    “My initial apprehension proved to be unfounded as the experience provided invaluable information and experience in emergency escape procedures and sea survival,” he said.

    “The upside-down underwater escape was the most daunting activity of the day but was completed after several trial escapes in the less difficult upright position.”

    Both the escape scenarios were completed in a heated pool with one trainer per person and oxygen available in case of an emergency.

    “Even those that couldn’t swim were able to successfully complete the training,” Mr Stephen said.

    Robert Hunt, assignment manager for Esso projects for PSN in Melbourne said that while HUET courses are all similar in the core training: to provide the necessary training in how to act in the event of a planned or unplanned ditching in the sea, some differ in regards to local environmental conditions.

    “The differences where the HUET training is carried out tend to be characterised by the location of the operation and the climate,” he said.

    Mr Hunt has been in the oil and gas industry for some 25 years and has experienced a range of different HUET training courses to equip him for operations around the world.

    “In one HUET training course I attended some years ago, the practical HUET training – the helicopter ditching simulation – was carried out in the sea.

    “This required all of the people on the course to carry a large steel frame with a small rotatable cabin for one person in the sea,” he said.

    “You were exhausted by the time the frame was in place, never mind the training that followed.

    “The sea was warm but full of jellyfish, not to mention the potential for sea snakes,” he said.

    Mr Hunt said tha training is carried out in full heavy-duty survival suits.

    “These make movement more difficult and egress from the helicopter more cumbersome and constrained.

    “This can take some getting used to but it is essential for heat retention and life preservation,” he said.

Challenging: Bob Keiller PSN chief executive (front), Peter Brown, PSN uK managing director (middle), Dean Hunter, PSN human resources director (back), undertake helicopter underwater emergency training.