Plimsoll Awards go to Houston pilots, training provider, inspection innovators
Professional Mariner has presented the 2017 Samuel Plimsoll Awards for Outstanding Service to two marine pilots whose actions minimized the danger posed by an oil tanker ablaze in the Houston Ship Channel, and to a training provider that has implemented a collaborative simulation program to improve the navigation skills of mariners.
Professional Mariner honored Capt. Michael McGee and Capt. Michael Phillips of the Houston Pilots for their actions aboard the tanker Aframax River on the night of Sept. 6. The 810-foot ship caught fire and burned for an hour in the Houston Ship Channel, with flaming diesel spreading across the water and threatening other vessels and terminals in Buffalo Bayou.
The Maritime Institute for Technology and Graduate Studies (MITAGS) and the Pacific Maritime Institute (PMI) received the 2017 Plimsoll Award for Outstanding Service by an Organization. The award recognizes the schools' Navigation Skills Assessment Program (NSAP), a risk-mitigation initiative that helps mariners and operators identify critical safety gaps and implement solutions to close them.
NSAP uses custom simulation scenarios and assessment criteria based on a company's skill requirements and area of operation, specifically focusing on the core skills required of licensed deck officers as defined by international standards and industry best practices. Competencies evaluated during the simulations include COLREGS/Rules of the Road, situational awareness, bridge resource management, company policies and procedures, communication and systems. Performance, from highly effective to unsatisfactory, is determined using a numerical point scale.
A report is produced at the end of each session and the facilitator debriefs the participants, summarizing their performance and providing an opportunity for feedback and discussion of lessons learned. Observations and recommendations may include further training or implementation of additional company procedures to close knowledge or skill gaps.
"NSAP has provided a safe and supportive environment (for mariners) to demonstrate their maritime and leadership skills and discuss with a respected peer how they can better themselves both professionally and for the safety of their crew, their vessel, and the industry as a whole," stated the nomination for MITAGS-PMI. "The program specifically offers a chance to self-reflect immediately after performing a set of tasks, allowing the individual to internalize and thereafter apply an improved skill or understanding of a rule to their jobs and professional lives."
The program has grown beyond MITAGS in Baltimore and PMI in Seattle and has been implemented at training facilities in the United Kingdom, Croatia and the Philippines, with newly licensed centers being developed in Singapore and India.
The 2017 Plimsoll Award for Innovation recognizes an initiative led by AkzoNobel, Barrier Group and DroneOps Ltd. to develop miniature aircraft capable of remotely inspecting ballast tanks and wind farms. RECOMMS — Remote Evaluation of Coatings and Corrosion on Offshore Marine Structures and Ships — will use virtual-reality technology and semi-autonomous drones to handle the dangerous work now done by crew, surveyors and independent inspectors.
“Surveys of enclosed spaces and ballast water tanks are an essential part of routine maintenance on board vessels and offshore structures, and are increasingly critical for shipowners,” said Michael Hindmarsh, a spokesman for RECOMMS and business development manager at AkzoNobel. “However, inspecting these areas thoroughly can require working at height, entering confined spaces, and negotiating slippery surfaces that could be poorly lit, all of which are high-risk activities that the maritime industry is keen to address.”
By replacing human inspectors with drones, routine maintenance can be monitored remotely in real time by office-based staff, “with instant feedback available to the vessel or offshore structure’s superintendent,” according to a RECOMMS news release.
The project is being funded by Netherlands-based AkzoNobel, a global provider of paints, coatings and specialty chemicals; Barrier Group, a tanker operator with headquarters in the United Kingdom; and U.K.-based DroneOps. Additional support is being provided by Innovate UK, Marine Technical Limits Ltd., Safinah Ltd. and Elcometer Ltd. Flight trials are planned for this year.