Man-overboard training in the harbour basin

Interview with Rolf Fremgen, director of the Cuxhaven Sea Survival Centre and partner in the Cuxhaven Offshore Safety Training Centre (O.S.T. Cuxhaven GmbH & Co.KG)

Mr. Fremgen, you have been directing the Cuxhaven Sea Survival Centre (SSCC) since 2004. Why is it so important to complete a safety training course? And, what courses do you offer?

Whoever enters a wind park, no matter whether it is on- or offshore, has to take a special training course. That goes for everybody from the engineer right down to the service personnel. The social insurance organisation against occupational accidents generally states what safety courses are mandatory for on- and offshore personnel. They include basic courses lasting five days, courses for three days and one-day refresher courses that the personnel have to take every year. Of course, you can also book just one training module.

Courses are limited to no more than twelve persons, and there is one trainer for every two persons to make sure that everybody is taught all of the course content. Safety training is so important, because there are special rules that have to be followed for wind power plants. Safety and rescue training for one of these plants includes such things as climbing the tower, surviving on the high seas or even underwater exit from a helicopter that has fallen into the sea. There is also practice on fire fighting and safe transfer from ship to safe ground or from ship to ship. You can learn all of these things and apply them in hands-on exercises.

After 35 years of serving in the German Army, my training and experience in safety and rescue procedures prompted me to set up SSCC as a way of meaningfully using my free time in retirement. Together with my twelve-man team, we offer courses in survival at sea, helicopter escape training, ship safety, climbing and rescuing (for on- and offshore wind parks) and transfer training (such as climbing from boats to the wind park). The special courses for on- and offshore wind parks are also taught in cooperation with the Cuxhaven Offshore Safety Training Centre that I’m also a partner in.

Why is Cuxhaven the natural location for a training centre like this?

When you talk about offshore, you have to go offshore. And that means going to the coast. Cuxhaven is the ideal location for a safety training centre with its geographic position at the mouth of the Elbe River and as an offshore base port. Real-life conditions have a major role to play in training. For instance, we also do man-overboard training in the harbour basin and transfer training at the Golf Beacon navigation aid that we are able to use with the approval of the Cuxhaven Shipping Authorities. It’s not surprising that the companies headquartered in Cuxhaven profit from this training centre. We are very flexible so that we can also find times for courses booked on short notice – that’s one of our stand-alone features.

We teach the STCW (standards of training, certification and watch keeping) refresher courses that we offer to ship crews together with Burkhard Rasch, the Cuxhaven captain and manager of the IMCS (Independent Marine Consultants and Surveyors). They go for four days with a curriculum that is similar to the courses mentioned above. We even had members of national and international ship crews in Cuxhaven for training in 2013.

What are the current developments and new projects?

We installed an exercise tower for practical exercises such as climbing and rescuing for the Cuxhaven Offshore Safety Training Centre (O.S.T.) in October of 2013. Beyond this, there is a new water training hall being built that is scheduled for activities starting in March of 2015, both for SSCC and O.S.T. Furthermore, we’re starting an entirely new training course in using emergency breathing apparatuses (HEED = helicopter emergency escape devices) in connection with the helicopter escape training course that we will included in our curriculum starting in December 2014.

In spite of a slack period in offshore wind power, we are still teaching our courses. As a matter of fact, we are even experiencing a slight rise over last year equalling five to six courses more than in 2013. After all, wind parks have to be serviced and maintained when they are finished. That means that the strategy for our safety training centres in Cuxhaven is definitely sustainable and will stay open in future.

Twelve students form two groups in the ship evacuation training course learning to stay close to each other to prevent cooling. This training course takes place in the ferryboat harbour. You can see the exercise tower in the background on the right-hand side.

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