Underwater Center Debuts ROV Ops Training

A new model for increasing workforce competency in the ROV industry, using a realistic offshore instruction environment, was introduced by The Underwater Center at the Subsea UK ROV conference in Aberdeen.

Industry and training providers have collaborated to develop work class ROV operations training that gives personnel thorough preparation and experience in essential aspects of work class ROV practice, offering the building blocks to improve safety and efficiency of staff and agency personnel.

Steve Ham, Commercial Director of The Underwater Center, told the conference that the aim of the industry-led solution is to address the looming skills and personnel shortage by offering both basic and advanced training to a greater number of workers, consequently shortening the time to reach senior roles.

The new model has seen The Underwater Center set up and deliver the training, with significant input from industry. It represents a complete change in the approach to training and consequently the opportunities open to personnel development within the industry in the future.

Earlier this week, the Chief Executive of the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), Andy Samuel called on the sector to continue investing in the next generation of talent or risk a ‘crippling skills gap’ in the wake of the global drop in the oil price.

The Underwater Center has received increasing support from the subsea industry and a number of companies – including Technip, Subsea 7, Fugro, Forum Subsea Technologies, FMC Schilling Robotics, Lawson Engineers Ltd, Digital Edge Subsea, Kongsberg and, more recently, Valeport – have been instrumental in developing the training syllabus, as well as donating much needed equipment.

Steve said: “The new contextual training we are offering in conjunction with industry signifies a paradigm shift in the way we deliver our courses, and includes theoretical and practical instruction on board our work class ROV support vessel – Loch Sunart – in a realistic marine environment.

“Just this week, Andy Samuel highlighted the need for companies to continue to invest in training and developing people, and this is just what we are doing in collaboration with the industry.  The oil and gas industry is cyclical and we have seen this happen a number of times before – without the necessary investment now in training, there will be a large skills gap in the future.

“The new program has been developed with a modular approach, covering topics such as ROV maintenance and operations, tooling, electrical and electronic systems, high voltage, working at heights, fibre optics and OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometer), and hydraulics. The training is also staged to address the training needs of new entrants, as well as established and experienced personnel. This approach allows training to fit with companies’ existing competence development programs.

“The competency and training of ROV operators will be an important factor in ensuring the continued development of the industry bringing increasingly significant operational and cost efficiencies.”

The Underwater Center works closely with the subsea industry to help companies gain the workforce they need, and to provide new and existing personnel with the best possible preparation for a subsea career.  The structured learning experience, tailored to address specific competency issues, also aims to improve the throughput of senior members of the offshore team.

Subsea companies benefit from providing this support, as it helps to increase the competency of their existing and future workforce; consequently students on all of the Center’s training courses receive training that assists a successful career in the subsea sector.

By creating a more effective workforce, this new approach to educating personnel in work class ROV operations will contribute to ensuring a safer working environment, and save resourcing and maintenance costs, as well as ensuring the future growth of the subsea industry.

The Underwater Center is a purpose-built subsea training and trials facility and is based on the shore of a seawater loch, well sheltered by the surrounding mountains.  The Center’s unique location allows it to provide year-round training and testing in an open-water environment, while still being centrally located in the largest town in the Scottish Highlands.

ROV students benefit from The Underwater Center’s unique training elements, including time on Loch Sunart – the Center’s work class ROV support vessel, which is fitted with an operational work class ROV – providing students with invaluable first-hand experience in all areas of ROV operations and mobilization, from launch and recovery to operating a suite of ROV navigation sensors as part of in-water practical exercises.  They also have full use of the ROV electrical and mechanical workshops, features unavailable at any other facility.

With access to depths of over 100m, it is the ideal location to perform realistic and industry-specific saturation and air diver and ROV pilot technician training, as well as providing a convenient location for subsea equipment trials.