Capt Gary
By: Capt. Ng Yew Hong
Date: 01st September 2015

The myth of obtaining C.O.C.

The general myth is that when a seafarer finally passes his C.O.C. Class 1 (it is an acronym for Certificate Of Competency Class 1), it signifies the highest academic achievement for education and learning in the maritime industry. Symbolically, it means that the seafarer can “command” any type of ship or a vessel or a self-propelled Workboat of all tonnages and in all waters – meaning he can navigate any ship of any size to any corner of the vast oceans.

OSV Cadets

OSV have changed the game

Traditionally, this is so. A seafarer after obtaining the required academic qualifications from a reputable maritime institution, he or she should be able to “command” any “ship” after completing the requisite training that relates to that specialized trade – whether it is an oil tanker, a chemical ship, a LPG/LNG ship, a general cargo ship, a container ship or a passenger ship. But with the advent of OSV (an acronym for Offshore Support Vessels), where these vessels are specially designed and constructed for use by the Oil & Gas Industry, the rules of the game start to change. These purpose-built vessels serve the myriad needs of the Exploration and Production platforms and drilling rigs that are stationed in the continental shelf in their search for crude oil and gases, process these natural resources and then transport them safely to the purchasers.

OSV Ship 1

Traditional vessels of the sea vs. OSV

The scope of this paper will restrict our discussion on training and development of seafarers who will eventually be competent enough to operate these OSV that are meant for Exploration and Production use, which are stationed in locations that often encounter harsh environmental and weather conditions. Very often we hear the 21st century comment regarding “modern feeble seafarers” who are only adept with electronic gadgets – a perception that is associated with the old adage “Wooden ships steel men. Steel ships, wooden men”. Admittedly, this is no longer so as the “new profile of seafarers” who work on OSV must be tough both physically and mentally as the daily working hours are irregular and often stretched beyond imagination as offshore activities are subjected to the mercy of the weather that includes the wind, sea and swells, and such long waiting periods for calm permissible weather conditions before offshore tasks can be performed, is termed as W.O.W. (Waiting On Weather). As a matter of comparison, urgently required is also a new breed of seafarers with specialized skills and competence for manoeuvring purpose-built ships through the Arctic waters of the polar region – as navigation through the melting ice-capped Northern Sea Route presents unprecedented challenges. Special training requirements are required so that these breed of seafarers will receive an improved understanding with regards to the dangers of ice navigation and improved skills to respond to emergencies resulting from fast ice accretion. Incidentally, the polar regions is also believed to harbor vast reservoirs of natural resources such as crude oil and gases, which will then spearhead another wave of exploration and production where future generations of improved OSV will be able to withstand the harsh polar winters.

Safe handling of OSV

Coming back to reality, the focus at the moment in Malaysia is to train and to prepare seafarers to a level where they can become competent enough for the safe handling of OSV which generally include Standby Vessels, Emergency Rescue & Response Vessels, Anchor Handling Vessels, Supply Vessels, Seismic Vessels, Towing Vessels, Fast Crew Boats, etc. that provide marine support services to specialized vessels such as Workbarges, Workboats, Drilling Rigs (Jack-ups, Semi-submersibles, Drilling Tenders), Construction and Engineering Barges, Pipe-laying Barges, Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO), and the list goes on and on. As the name suggests, each OSV is constructed differently and is designed for a specific purpose and hence the training requirements for the seafarer, as far as possible, would need to be tailor–made for the special circumstances of the situation.

OSV Ship 2

OSV for the Offshore Industry

In order to summarize the pressing needs of the Oil & Gas industry with regard to the safe operations of OSV, the Malaysian NOSS (National Occupational Skills Standard) has embarked on a commendable journey to equip these seafarers with the necessary skills and competence, quote:
“This NOSS document provides a structured approach on acquiring skills to further their career on board Offshore Support Vessel (OSV) and at the same time, bridge the skill gap required to work onboard the OSV for existing seafarers. This NOSS document provides minimum criteria describing the various levels of skills needed in enabling a seafarer to perform tasks safely and efficiently on board OSV.
The rationale for the creation of this NOSS document is to develop a standard skill sets for seafarers working in the offshore environment which are currently not being addressed uniformly by the local industry players.
The impact in developing this standard will produce a skilled workforce which is able to compete within the domestic and international markets. With such a skilled workforce, it will reduce the probability of accidents, downtime, loss of assets occurring thus maximising potential productivities.”

Also, Capt. Syed Fazil Bin Yahya who has vast experience in the offshore industry, had shared his wisdom through his commitment as reflected in his words “Looking into the future, the KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) will have a huge immediate impact on the industry and the workgroups would have helped the OSV community to reach an important milestone by delivering a product that will raise the level of competency for each and every worker onboard an OSV”.

Allow me to re-state the original objectives of this paper – the primary role of the OSV is to provide specialized support services to the Oil & Gas Industry, therefore, a need arises where these adventure seeking seafarers are required to be competent, well-trained and certified so that they can perform their offshore marine duties in a manner that can be as safe as possible. STCW 2010 (Standards, Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) had painstakingly revamped the curriculum and through the Manila Amendments, it is hoped that the core competencies of seafarers with regards to KUP (Knowledge, Understanding, Proficiency) will be further addressed and strengthened.

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