Boosting Cape Town’s offshore training capacity

Boosting Cape Town’s offshore training capacity

OATC celebrates a decade in offshore training

SOUTH AFRICA: Having identified accredited training for the offshore sectors as a crucial component of developing the local and regional capacity to participate in the global energy sector, Cape Town-based Offshore Africa Training Centre (OATC) last week officially launched additional courses that will confirm the country’s position as a reputable training provider.

Established ten years ago by Gary Concar, OATC was the first centre to offer OPITO-accredited training in South Africa. Over the last decade, the team has introduced additional training courses and now boasts an impressive repertoire that includes rigging, lifting, slinging, banksman duties, and LOLER (Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations), Helicopter Underwater Evacuation Training (HUET) as well as other OPITO Survival Courses such as BOSIET CA-EBS.

“The need for skills and expertise in the energy sector has never been more pressing in South Africa,” notes Concar, adding that any growth in the sector will require the skills of an internationally approved energy sector workforce.

Now local and international offshore workers can obtain many of these skills at the conveniently located OATC training facility close to Cape Town International Airport (CTIA).

Several international disasters in the offshore exploration space have seen the sector focus more stringently on safety training and requirements for its workforce. With a background of working on offshore rigs, Concar is no stranger to the gruelling environment and made the decision to come ashore with a vision to establish a local training option at the end of 2013.

While still working offshore, he was forced to undertake expensive training overseas and saw the potential for a South African based training centre that could benefit local oil and gas crew as well as attract an international client base.

Since its launch in 2014, OATC has expanded its range of accredited courses and now owns a fit-for-purpose facility near CTIA that includes classrooms, a HUET simulation system and pool-based training as well as dedicated areas for rigging and lifting training.

“We are happy in our new home and proud to be able to offer everything under one roof,” said Concar as he acknowledged his team and the ongoing partnership with Safer Training at their anniversary and new course launch function last week.

Safer Training provide a range of internationally recognised courses, to the various energy sectors globally and Ian McMillin emphasised the importance of the partnership. “Liverpool-based Safer Training have been a key partner in OATC’s ten-year journey, and have been instrumental in the competitive edge, and the growth.”

Safer Training’s Jason Hall led guests through a HUET exercise as he demonstrated OATC’s facilities as well as the mechanics of the exercise that saw two participants being put through their paces in the pool with OATC trainers and divers on standby to mitigate any risks.

The event showcased OATC’s commitment to highest standards of health and safety at a crucial time for the energy sector on the continent.


Escaping from a burning platform in the middle of the North Sea

Standing on the Piper Alpha platform in the pitch-black night in July 1988, Joe Meanen took the decision to throw his life jacket over the edge and jump in after it as the offshore structure became engulfed in flames following a number of explosions.

Engaging with the guests at the OATC launch function in Cape Town, Meanen spoke about the need for safety training as he highlighted how his escape from the burning platform required him to trust his instincts and rely on survival training.

Meanen was one of only 61 survivors of the tragic night that resulted in 167 fatalities. His harrowing account of the ordeal started in the rig’s cinema where he was watching Caddy Shack when the first explosion occurred.

After making his way to the helideck with a few other men in darkness, it became clear that there would be no opportunity for a helicopter rescue and the only hope of surviving entailed risking the jump into the ocean.

Tapping into his survival training that taught him not to wear a lifejacket when jumping into the sea from any significant height, Meanen first launched his gear into the ocean and hoped that he would land nearby after following it into the water.

Fortunately for him, he managed to locate his lifejacket in the icy water and was hauled out of the cold sea relatively soon thereafter. Suffering from burns to his arms and hands, Meanen was hospitalised and underwent a protracted rehabilitation after the incident.

Since then, Meanen has used the experience to advocate for improved safety within the sector through public speaking and awareness raising.

“It is important to be prepared as best you can especially if you are working offshore or in oil and gas and chemical plants. You need to make sure you have the right equipment and machinery so you can cope with any situation,” he says.

“We were honoured to have Joe Meanen, one of the legendary 61 heroic survivors of the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, as a speaker at our event,” said Concar.


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