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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

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April 8, 2004


Safety first priority for researchers
Well-oiled machine

By Kristin Harris

(L-R) Dr. Brian Veitch, Tony Patterson and António Simões Ré
Photo by Chris Hammond
(L-R) Dr. Brian Veitch, Tony Patterson and António Simões Ré are working on projects designed to make living and working offshore a safer experience for all.

As the offshore oil industry grows in Newfoundland and Labrador, so does the need for new technology to ensure the safety of those who live and work in dangerous conditions. Dr. Brian Veitch, associate professor in Memorial’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, is also the Petro- Canada/Terra Nova Project Junior Research Chair in Ocean Environmental Risk Engineering. Together with a team of researchers, his work is becoming increasingly important to offshore safety.

Dr. Veitch said the main goal of his work is “to improve the safety of those working at sea.” This broad goal has led to his forming a multidisciplinary team, working with other faculty and researchers, such as António Simões Ré of the Institute for Ocean Technology, Tony Patterson of the Centre for Marine Simulation, and many others. According to Dr. Veitch, they have a complementary skill set that has allowed the group to examine technical performance, human factors, and training elements and competencies as related to offshore safety.

Aside from addressing knowledge gaps, which is a conventional academic approach, the group decided it wanted to contribute in a way that would directly affect the offshore industry through practical applications. Dr. Veitch states, “We wanted to have an impact on the safety of those at sea, so innovation became an important part of our work. Our research team has academic, technical and operational experience.” He also credits the excellent facilities at the Institute for Ocean Technology as being vital to the success of their work.

A key application of this research is training simulator technology, the purpose of which is to provide realistic simulation of evacuation procedures. Dr. Veitch acknowledges, “It can be dangerous to do training with lifeboats, but training is needed to develop competency. Emergency evacuation can happen in any condition, but at present it is impossible to train in anything but relatively benign conditions.”

The demo version of the simulator consists of a desktop model. Users see visuals on the screen and use keystrokes in order to complete the evacuation process.

The next step, which will unfold during the summer with the contribution of six co-op undergraduate and graduate engineering students, is the development of a mock-up of a lifeboat that has a real control panel, as well as visuals surrounding the user. The team hopes the prototype will lead to further developments in the area of simulation as it relates to maritime and offshore contexts.

Dr. Veitch and the offshore safety team have also partnered with several local companies to achieve their goal. With Oceanic Consulting Corporation, Dr. Veitch and António Simões Ré have worked to provide advice to companies worldwide in on effective emergency evacuation plans. They have also partnered with Mad Rock Marine Solutions, a company that is developing technology that will provide better safety for the offshore and shipping industries. A third connection, with Cathexis Innovations, has resulted in a safety product based on the application of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology.

Dr. Veitch acknowledges the research program and its outcomes owe a lot to the network of financial supporters, a group that includes Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, National Research Council, Petro-Canada, Terra Nova Project, Petroleum Research Atlantic Canada, Atlantic Innovation Fund, NSERC, and National Search and Rescue Secretariat.


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Next issue: April 29, 2004

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