Tougher training now possible at survival centre

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Multi-million dollar upgrades to Marine Institute facility completed

The Marine Institute held a show and tell at its Offshore Safety and Survival Centre in Foxtrap on Wednesday, following the completion of $3 million in upgrades to the facility.

The upgrades were focused on toughening up survival training and testing at the facility pool — to better prepare workers for dealing with emergencies offshore.

There are wind, wave and rain machines at the pool now, alongside new sound and lighting controls that can add environmental challenges to even basic training programs.  

Training and testing at the centre is most often associated with the offshore oil and gas industry, but is also taken on by, for example, fishermen and ferry workers.

The new system can raise winds to 80 kilometres per hour and waves up to one metre.

The lighting system can replicate search lights, while the sound system can produce thunder to pair with heavy rains or rotor noise.

A new Helicopter Underwater Escape Trainer (HUET) has also been added to the facility, specifically replicating the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter in everything from window size to chair type.

The HUET testing has to be completed by all workers based at offshore oil and gas industry installations. It is used to give workers the experience of being flipped upside down into the water, as is likely to happen in the case of a controlled or emergency ditching of a helicopter flight.

The new equipment was all used to full effect in demonstrations completed for the media by staff members Krista Parsons Butler, Roma Barron, Greg Harvey and Damien Brazil. Video of the demos is available on The Telegram website.

With wind machines cranked and rain pouring down, director of the training centre, Robert Rutherford, said the last few demos were right on the edge of what students might be tested with, without safety considerations coming into play.

He said the recent upgrades allow for a greater flexibility in training programs, but the limits for trainees are still unclear. The centre is still working to beef up training programs, while maintaining a safe environment.

The new system was purchased from, and installed by, Survival Systems Ltd. based in Dartmouth, N.S.  Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. (HMDC) covered costs, originally donating $2.4 million for the work.

"A commitment to safety is something we value and promote at every level," stated Paul Leonard, president of HMDC at the time of the original donation.

"Training our workers is an important component of our overall approach to safety.

As work was completed, costs increased. HMDC added about $600,000 to their donation to see the work done.

Vice president of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Glenn Blackwood said the university is already planning another $500,000 add-on to the facility, to provide storage space for flight and immersion suits used in training.

Those suits are currently kept, racked, on the deck of the training pool and, with the new indoor environmental controls, they tend to get wet, Blackwood said.

He said construction on the new addition will start in the spring.


Organizations: Marine Institute, HMDC, The Telegram N.S. Hibernia Management and Development Company Memorial University of Newfoundland

Geographic location: Foxtrap, Dartmouth

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Recent comments

  • Ken
    March 01, 2012 - 11:34

    Too bad they wouldn't get the international OPITO approval. There are more Newfoundlanders working offshore overseas than work offshore Newfoundland and we have to leave the province to get training that is certified internationally!!! I just returned from Louisiana for this but I would rather have done it at home.

  • Busy Bayman
    March 01, 2012 - 06:55

    I've experienced this setup while taking part in the training at Survival Systems Ltd in Dartmouth a few year ago. Pretty neat system that can add some of the psychological experiences to the training which is good. The more "hands on" the better. However, at my time of training they could not use the 'theatre' during the HUET exercise and I believe they still can't, with the exception of military training which they let it go full blast. But we did get to ramp it up during the liferaft exercise. It was good to experience a simulated wind, rain, lightening and sounds as well as the waves. Some people actually got a bit frieghtened. Once they get approved to use the simulation during the HUET for civilian training it will be a great addition. I look forward to that. It was a fun experience, coming from someone who can't swim a stroke!!