Captains' Log: Knowledge is key

A simulation of the Aurora Australis entering Mawson’s Horseshoe Harbour. (Photo Katrina Beams)

31 January 2020

As work continues on the Nuyina in Galati, Captain Paul Clarke returns to Tasmania to undergo polar code training with the Australian Maritime College. 

Things are forging ahead with the Nuyina build program, with a fresh crew recently arriving at the shipyard to cover the next phase. 

Since my last update, we had a two-week break over the Christmas and New Year period which, after a busy year, was needed by everyone involved in this long and complex process. 

A major part of the Nuyina project is to ensure that all of us who are lucky enough to be working on the ship are appropriately trained to operate the vessel safely. It is mandatory for all deck officers sailing in the polar regions to hold a Polar Code endorsement on their certificates of competency, which are our main seafaring qualifications. As a result, a number of the crew and I have just finished courses at the Australian Maritime College (AMC) in Launceston, Tasmania.  

To ‘drive’ a ship the size of the Nuyina, the minimum requirements are that the Master must have an unlimited Master Class 1, the Chief Mate must have an unlimited Chief Mate, and the other deck officers must have Officer in charge of a navigational watch. So my engineering buddies don’t feel left out, to work on Nuyina as a marine engineer, they require unlimited certificates of competency. 

We completed the Polar Code Basic and Advanced courses, which are a mixture of classroom theory and simulator practical training. The courses covered things like the Polar Code, polar voyage risk management, ice formation, terminology, identification and movement, icebreaker construction, polar navigation, manoeuvring in ice, and polar voyage passage planning, just to name a few. 

Simulator training is very good and can be quite realistic. The simulators are fitted with the same equipment as the bridge of real ships, with the windows replaced by projected images or monitors. Multiple simulators can run at once, so that the actions of one student will impact others, which can be interesting for collision avoidance! They also replicate communications, changing weather, and ice. The ice can be simulated to be thin to thick, under pressure or loose, with or without snow, and different concentrations, according to the scenario being run. 

While the AMC simulator didn’t move, it did have pretty good sound effects of the noises made while icebreaking. There was also some sort of magic that happened…if we were talking amongst ourselves on the bridge commenting that the weather was nice and it would be much harder if we had poor visibility, it always started to snow! 

As well as open ocean icebreaking, one of our scenarios was to bring the simulated Aurora Australis into Horseshoe Harbour at Mawson. The Nuyina is pretty big compared to the Aurora, and even though it is not currently planned to use that particular anchorage, it’s still a good training opportunity. 

For people keen on pursuing this kind of career, the Maritime College and Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) websites have a lot of great information on all the seafaring career choices, whether you wish to be a deck officer, marine engineer, electrician, bosun, integrated rating, cook or steward. Serco will also be recruiting a deck cadet and an engineering cadet for the Nuyina, among the other crew roles. 

Once we all get to Vlissingen in the Netherlands, there is an intensive program of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) training. This will involve both the ship’s operators and maintainers.

While we’re focusing on training, other teams are busy with the recruitment of crew and preparing our safety management system ready for audit and approval. This is a major undertaking and a critical part of readying the vessel for its voyages to Antarctica. 

Advanced course participants on the simulator.  (Photo: Paul Clarke)

Captain Paul and other Nuyina crew members undertook Polar Code Basic and Advanced courses at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston, Tasmania. (Photo: Paul Clarke)