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Wed 26 Jan 2011 12:00 AM

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In safe hands

Staying ahead of the safety training curve is helping keep AlMansoori’s training arm, GTSC a centre of excellence for oil field safety training.

In safe hands
Live firefighting exercises are commonplace at the Gulf Technical & Safety Training Centre.

When you first walk through the front doors of the Gulf Technical and Safety Training Centre (GTSC), you are immediately greeted by bright-coloured posters promoting the centre’s latest safety training courses and programmes, and there are many, so claims the training centre’s corporate general manager, Mario Nahas.

The centre, a subsidiary of AlMansoori Specialized Engineering which focuses on providing safety training for oil field personnel, recently obtained approval from the International Association for Drilling Contractors (IADC), USA and its European equivalent, the IWFC (International Well Control Forum) to provide bespoke training courses.

The facility is now the first of its kind in the world to offer the new IADC Drilling Diploma. The diploma, is a 24-week training programme designed to develop inexperienced engineers to become certified drillers. The programme consists of classroom learning, practical on drilling simulators and rig and field experiences developing their skills.

“There is a requirement for every driller to undergo recertification every two years to prove that they are still capable of being a driller,” Nahas says, “this is the standard accreditation, however what we did is, we went the extra mile,” he adds explaining how the international industry accreditation bodies gave training centres such as GTSC autonomy to create helpful safety training courses for the oil and gas industry.

“They told the training industry around the world ‘you come up with something which is useful for the industry, we will revise it, if it is acceptable, then we will accredit you’. We did two things here, we did a drilling diploma and a well testing diploma.”

The IADC Drilling Diploma, a 24-week (six months) training programme is designed to develop inexperienced engineers to become certified drillers under internationally recognised standards.

The programme consists of classroom learning, practical on drilling simulators and rig and field experiences developing their skills. This is all well and good but as an oil and gas operator sending its most prized resource – its workers – you want to know that a training facility like GTSC is not a one-trick pony.

Hopefully by this point you will have walked through some of the centre’s corridors plastered with certificate after certificate of international and local safety training accreditations which should help put your mind at ease in the knowledge that you will be getting the best safety training there is. The centre claims to have training programmes that are unparalleled globally.

Gaps in the market

“We look for gaps in the market especially in the GCC. I am interested in the Middle East and North Africa and what needs to be developed [here]. We designed a six-month drilling diploma for engineers, and this is hands on, based on this diploma, the trainee will get a foot in the door to become a driller or an assistant driller.”

Nahas says that the lesser-known Well Testing Design and Analysis Diploma will take some time to gain momentum in the industry as it is very new although he is hopeful as the five-day course could prove especially useful for those who want to brush up on their experience.

He recalls how similar courses were run at the facility a decade ago, which were time and cost-intensive for the companies sending their personnel for training.

“In 2001, we were doing the old style diplomas for oil companies, we did a diploma for NDC who gave us about 150 locals to train. We took 18 months to get them to assistant driller, now we’re doing it in six months due to different technology and different programmes. So what you’re doing is saving one year,” he says.

Nahas’ colleague and GTSC general manager Mohammed Al Mashibi is equally sanguine about the centre’s ability to stay a few steps ahead of the training requirements of the oil and gas industry.

Al Mashibi, a chemical engineer by trade who began his career working as a maintenance engineer in an oil refinery before moving onto work as a training consultant for ADMA in the early 2000s, knows that he is very well placed at GTSC.

“This centre is second to none for safety, it is number one in the region,” he says. They needed the technical side to be strengthened because a technical centre needs a technical person to run it so that’s why I joined and that’s my objective now.

“We have made special courses, customised for the requirement for drilling technicians, it’s like a patent of GTSC, we are making courses that nobody is currently offering,” he adds.

In his explanation, Al Mashibi describes how GTSC is helping to set the standard in technical training where perhaps there was none in the region.

“In western countries no one will tell you that ‘I am a mechanical technician’ unless they have taken certain courses and got some accreditation but here this is not the case, a person will come from anywhere in the world he will say that ‘I am a technician’ when maybe he is just working on his car. But now the oil companies are becoming stringent on this,” the general manager opines.

The convincing game

Al Mashibi, who is tasked with marketing and bringing in business for GTSC from around the GCC region, says that employers need a little convincing about the quality of training their frontline employees are likely to be getting from a facility like GTSC.

“They are willing to take up the training, when you talk to them about training by saying that ‘your people will be competent, there will be no time failure’, they are receptive, the good thing about the oil companies is that they have been in the business since the 60s so they know what they need,” he explains. “The issue is whether or not we are in a position to give them what they need or not.”

Al Mashibi says there are definitely intangible benefits to be gained for oil companies sending their personnel to an independent facility like GTSC.

“If your instructor is taking a salary from you, you cannot quantify the quality of his work because he is an employee,” he says, wearing the employer’s hat for a moment.

He adds that the experience of training at GTSC goes further than simply making a profit for the facility, it is also about providing a professional and quality safety training service for the region’s oil and gas operators.

With the number of accreditations and certifications in various safety training programmes run at GTSC from its Mussafah industrial city facility on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, there is very little ground left to cover says GTSC’s Nahas. “There’s nothing left in the market,” he jokes.

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