New simulator to expand offshore safety training
Working safely and efficiently in harsh environments is paramount for the east coast offshore industry.
High calibre training and adapting to industry needs is a well understood concept at the Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University’s Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS).
In January, $6.15 million in funding was announced for the new Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator Facility to be built at MI.
CMS will train new and existing personnel at the Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator Facility in complex tasks, such as positioning and mooring of offshore structures, supply transfers, iceberg management, seismic surveys and subsea operation. It will also be used to rehearse operations and develop and evaluate procedures as part of risk assessment.
A unique feature of the new simulator will allow for the potential of ice management and towing in Arctic environments.
This facility was made possible through donations of $4.4 million from the Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. (HMDC) and $750,000 from the provincial government’s Infrastructure Funding Program.
Additionally, the Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s (ACOA) Innovative Communities Fund, provided more than $1 million to MI to support the simulator and other smaller components related to helicopter safety training, and planning and design components related to MI’s Holyrood Marine Base.
“Simulation training helps vessel crews build their experience and confidence to deal with some of the toughest problems they can face offshore,” said Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute). “This new facility will be an important resource as our offshore industry grows and demands highly skilled personnel to operate offshore support vessels.”
The facility will enable CMS to continue spearheading research in the areas of equipment design, ice navigation, technology transfer and simulation development with the aim of making offshore operations safe and more efficient.
The facility will include a motion platform that replicates a wide range of conditions at sea, a visualization system and an instructor station. It will also replicate vessel vibrations and realistic visual representations of offshore operations in real-time.
First image, left: L-R: K. Sampath, HMDC; Bill Swett, EMC; Captain Hearn, director, MI’s Centre for Marine Simulation; Margot Bruce-O’Connell, public affairs manager, HMDC; Honourable Kevin O’Brien, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills; Dr. Kachanoski, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University of Newfoundland; Paul Mills, vice-president, ACOA; Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute); Len Coughlan HMDC.
Second image, right: CMS’s Full Mission Ship's Bridge Simulator. Captain Chris Hearn explaining how the new Hibernia Offshore Operations Simulator Facility will complement the wide range of marine and offshore training simulators currently housed at CMS.
Arctic shipping: Marine Institute training aids industry in the North
Fednav Limited, the largest dry-bulk shipping company in Canada, has long recognized the benefits of simulation training for its crew, especially those working in northern waters.
Since the early 1990’s Fednav has availed of the facilities at the Marine Institute’s Centre for Marine Simulation (CMS) to provide realistic training programs for its navigators and deck officers. CMS equips Fednav personnel with knowledge, skills, and confidence that can be immediately applied in their work.
Arctic shipping, where ship handling is a fundamental requirement, demands much from the crew and bridge team. It’s a current reality that some deck officers and navigators, even some very senior ones, have little chance to perform intricate ship handling on a routine basis. In cases like this, simulation becomes a must. Over the years, Fednav personnel have completed various training courses at CMS such as advanced ship handling.
“CMS was a natural fit for us. The training the centre provides has been vital to the development of first-class navigators,” said Tim Keane, operations manager, Fednav Ltd. “CMS provides a realistic platform for navigators to gain practical experience without the risk of physical damage.”
CMS’s world-class simulation technology allows skills to develop in a controlled atmosphere where participants have the benefit of learning from others. The training for Fednav personnel mostly centres around the Full Mission Ship’s Bridge Simulator, which includes a 360 degree virtual environment with a motion platform that provides realistic motions and vibrations.
“The ability to perform multiple exercises in a short period of time allows participants to compress the time normally needed to experience a host of different scenarios, most of which they will experience in real-life during their careers,” said Captain Chris Hearn, director, CMS.
CMS provides a variety of Arctic related courses to clients, including an ice navigation course which introduces students to the essential information and tools required to conduct effective, safe and economic voyages through ice-infested waters.
“There is no doubt that the training provided by CMS has paid dividends,” said Keane. “Our vessels operating in northern projects, accounting for dozens of voyages each year, have incurred no damages, and though we cannot ascribe that solely to training at CMS, we have no doubt that the training is a contributing factor to our excellent safety record.”
Conservation fish harvesting technologies promote economic & food security in Arctic
Dr. Scott Grant’s research on bycatch reduction of Greenland shark in Nunavut’s inshore turbot longline fishery has earned him a spot at the WWF-Canada Shark Experts Science meeting in Halifax, NS this March.
Information discussed and gathered at the meeting is expected to aid the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the development of their Shark Conservation Action Plan, which will cover all of Eastern Canada including the Eastern Arctic and Gulf of St. Lawrence.
As an instructor and fisheries scientist with the Marine Institute’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources (CSAR), Dr. Grant will be sharing his research on how modifications to longline fishing gear can further the conservation efforts of the Greenland shark.
Historically, the Nunavut inshore longline fishery in Cumberland Sound has been conducted during the winter when landfast ice (coastal ice which is either attached or confined to the shore, building seaward) allows Inuit fishers from the community of Pangnirtung access to deep water habitats preferred by turbot, also known as Greenland halibut.
Interest in the development of a summer longline fishery for turbot is growing due to unpredictable increases in winter storms and landfast ice conditions since 1996. However, during an exploratory summer fishery in 2009 the bycatch of Greenland shark was found to increase substantially.
The Greenland shark is the only species of shark to occur in Arctic waters year-round. Turbot is a favoured prey of Greenland shark, making this species the most common bycatch in the turbot longline fishery in Cumberland Sound. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the Greenland shark as near threatened on the basis of possible population declines and limiting life history characteristics.
“Sustainable resource use involves identifying ways to preserve the unique Arctic ecology and there is a need to manage Greenland shark bycatch,” explained Dr. Grant. “The challenge is to develop conservation harvesting technologies that help to maintain as well as promote economic and food security for Arctic communities as they adjust to changes in their environment.”
In August 2011, Dr. Grant participated in a survey conducted in Cumberland Sound onboard the RV Nuliajuk where he tested the effect of a Selective Magnetic Repellent-Treated (SMART) hook technology at reducing the bycatch of Greenland shark on longlines. The SMART hook incorporates magnetic and electropositive metal deterrents that exploit the reliance sharks have on their electrosensory system.
Not only did the SMART hooks fail to deter predation from the Greenland sharks on experimental longlines, but all sharks were caught on SMART hooks, some with more than one SMART hook in their jaw. These findings, combined with the rapid dissolution of the electropositive metal component of the SMART hook prevent it from being a practical solution for reducing the bycatch of Greenland shark.
Studies continued and research carried-out in the summer of 2012 by Jenna Munden, a graduate student under the Dr. Grant’s supervision, demonstrated that bycatch of Greenland shark could be significantly reduced by changing from braided nylon to monofilament gangions (fishing line). In addition, turbot catch rates were also higher on monofilament gangions. This discovery provides incentive for fishers to modify their gear.
Dr. Grant’s most recent study on reducing the bycatch of Greenland shark was conducted in Cumberland Sound during the summer of 2013. During the study, traditional length and longer monofilament gangions were used. While there was evidence of several shark bite-offs, there were no Greenland sharks captured on the traditional length monofilament gangions and turbot catch rates were again higher on monofilament gangions.
These results corroborate the 2012 study and the overall consensus is that by substituting traditional braided nylon with monofilament gangions, the bycatch of Greenland shark will be reduced through increased bite-offs and from a decrease in gear encounter rates resulting from increased turbot capture efficiency.
Overall, research led by Dr. Grant has demonstrated conservation of Arctic populations of Greenland shark can be met by an inexpensive gear modification. However shark depredation on longline gear remains an issue as they prey on captured turbot and baited hooks. Further, gear is often destroyed or damaged during live-release efforts of entangled Greenland sharks.
For this reason, Dr. Grant is continuing his research through the testing of baited pots. A major scientific study will be carried out this summer in Arctic waters to determine whether turbot can be captured in pots.
“To date, our research has identified measures that can be taken by fishers to protect Greenland sharks and provides biological data and information on the feeding behavior which greatly contributes to our knowledge of how Greenland shark lives in Arctic waters,” said Dr. Grant.
CSAR has been conducting this research project for the past three years in conjunction with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Arctic Aquatic Research Division, Central & Arctic Region. The project is funded by the National Research Council, Nunavut Offshore Allocation Holders Association-Nunavut Exploratory Fishery Fund, Government of Nunavut (Department of Environment), CanNor, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Oceans North (The Pew Environment Group) and Oceans Canada.
First image, right: Dr. Scott Grant.
Second image, left: Hauling the longline (credit Philip Walsh).
Third image, right: Greenland shark captured on longline (credit Scott Grant).
Seven years providing practical training in the North has given Randy Pittman great insight on community needs and economic opportunity.
Pittman is the Marine Institute’s (MI) coordinating instructor in Nunavut. Throughout his northern experience he has traveled and taught in 17 of the 25 Nunavut communities, but is now primarily based out of Iqaluit due to increased training demand.
“We are helping young people take advantage of a natural resource that is on their doorstep,” said Pittman. “With the high cost of living in Nunavut, it is rewarding to see this generation getting well-paying jobs while also being able to live in their semi-isolated communities.”
Early MI training in Nunavut began as a few scattered courses. It has now grown substantially to include a variety of training programs including small vessel operation, marine first aid, radio courses, marine emergency duties, bridge watch rating, marine diesel, small engine repair, various processing courses, watch keeping mate, fishing masters III & IV, confined space and simulator courses among several others.
“I love the fast paced environment,” said Pittman. “We are very busy up here and have to be prepared to conduct a variety of tasks to accommodate our students.”
The training provided by the institute is contracted by the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium (NFMTC) through the Arctic College. Through this partnership, MI has helped NFMTC transform entry level programs to an extensive array of courses all the way up to fishing masters. MI’s northern team has also aided in the expansion from solely fisheries training to training for commercial vessels such as sealift vessels.
Demand and interest in training has been on the rise in Nunavut since the formation of NFMTC in 2005. During the first year MI delivered six courses to 73 participants, with a 77 per cent completion rate. Most recently, in 2013/14, MI delivered 35 courses to 307 participants with an anticipated 95 per cent completion rate.
“Sometimes you measure your successes up here a little differently than in the south. A career on the water up here is relatively new,” explained Pittman. “I can see an overall change in the culture in that going to sea is becoming a bit more of the norm. We get forty applications now for one intake of twelve of our introductory course. Years ago, we had to scrape just to get twelve.”
Pittman is now focusing his main efforts on expanding MI’s operations both in Nunavut and in other northern regions such as Nunavik.
On average, there are approximately four MI instructors in Nunavut at any given time to accommodate the training needs in the region. The Government of Nunavut partially funds the NFMTC, this year the government’s Department of Family Services will be the major funder.
NFMTC and MI work in conjunction with many different government departments and industry partners to provide training for all facets of the marine industry including the offshore, inshore, processing, cargo vessels and Nunavut Government’s research vessel.
First image, right: Randy Pittman in Pangnirtung turbot ice fishing
Second image, left: Learning Chartwork for Fishing Masters
Third image, right: Learning Net Repair
Sustaining Atlantic salmon fishery in Labrador
Since the partnering of two Memorial institutions, the Marine Institute’s (MI) Centre for Fisheries Ecosystems Research (CFER) and the Labrador Institute (LI) in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 2012, an important goal has been to develop a community-based fisheries research program in Labrador.
CFER research scientist, Dr. Marie Clément, stationed at the Labrador Institute, is developing a research program which focuses on fisheries-related issues. Not long after beginning at LI, Dr. Clément noticed that although Atlantic salmon represented an important Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fishery for local communities, the species is understudied in the Labrador context.
Salmon populations in rivers that drain into Lake Melville are of particular interest. Preliminary research on these populations revealed an unusual juvenile age and possibly a unique genetic structure compared to other areas of Labrador.
Dr. Clément, in collaboration with Dr. Ian Bradbury, a geneticist at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), developed a project to investigate the genetic structure and rivers of origin of Atlantic salmon to assist with fisheries sustainability in Labrador. Since then, several other scientists have joined the team including Dr. Geoff Veinott from DFO, Dr. Ian Fleming from Memorial University and Dr. Paul Bentzen from Dalhousie University.
The project is being conducted in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government, the Innu Nation, Nunatukavut Community Council, the Labrador Hunting and Fishing Association, and the Torngat Wildlife, Plants and Fisheries Secretariat.
“This research project will determine if salmon stocks in the Lake Melville watershed are genetically distinct and should be managed as a separate designable unit,” explained Dr. Clément. “We will also be identifying natal rivers of Atlantic Salmon to determine the origin of the fish in the Food, Social and Ceremonial (FSC) fishery so we can estimate exploitation rates and assess stock status, which would help manage the stocks in a sustainable way. Depending on the findings of this research, potential changes to resource management could be recommended.”
This work will lead to the formulation of recommendations on locations where habitat compensation and enhancement measures could be applied in order to increase salmon productivity for food security. These changes will protect salmon populations in the face of future economic developments that will occur in the region.
The project is complementary to a salmonid tagging study that was conducted by the Nunatsiavut Government in summer 2013, near the community of Rigolet, to better understand salmon movement within Lake Melville and identify a location for a salmon assessment facility in the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area of Lake Melville. Combined with the results of the tagging study, this project will help to better understand which rivers are supporting salmon populations in the region.
Ultimately, the project is expected to produce new information on status of Atlantic salmon stocks within Lake Melville, which will assist with the management and conservation of Atlantic salmon and ensure food security to local communities.
In September 2013, Drs. Clément and Bradbury recruited Jonathan Pearce, Memorial Ph.D. biology candidate, to conduct research on the genetic structure and rivers or origin for this project. Pearce received a MSc. in Biology from Northern Michigan University while working on the population genetics of brook trout located in tributaries of Lake Superior.
The rivers around Lake Melville are a challenge to access because they are remote, wide, shallow and rocky. Traditional local knowledge is essential in order to successfully carry out this project.
“Aboriginal communities possess a wealth of knowledge about the natural resources in Labrador,” said Dr. Clément. “I strongly believe that science and traditional knowledge should work together to obtain the information needed for sustainable management of resources in northern regions.”
To assist in his research, Pearce will be hiring aboriginal field technicians who will be trained in fisheries sampling techniques and recording of scientific data. The aboriginal field technician will contribute to the success of this project by sharing knowledge about the region, how to safely access the rivers and identify rivers which are producing salmon.
“This summer I will be working with all team members in remote sections of rivers around Lake Melville collecting juvenile Atlantic salmon,” said Pearce. “This will be the most challenging part of the collections due to the distance needed to travel and difficulty of accessing the upper reaches of the rivers. We will also be working with aboriginal conservation officers and fishers to collect samples from the fisheries for analysis.”
Determining the genetic structure and rivers of origin of Atlantic salmon in Lake Melville is the first of several projects that Dr. Clément is expecting to develop in the region. Among other projects, she is particularly interested in studying the bioaccumulation of methylmercury in food webs and quantifying hydrological changes related to the lower Churchill hydroelectric development.
First image, left: Dr. Marie Clément
Second image, right: Lake Melville, Labrador
Third image, left: Ph.D. Candidate Jonathan Pearce