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Safety at sea

Industrial research chair established at Memorial to improve safety at sea


By Jackey Locke

Significant investments totalling more than $2.6 million from industry, government and Memorial University will help to improve offshore safety of human and workplace performance while at sea.

Dr. Brian Veitch, an ocean and naval architectural engineering professor with the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, has been appointed as the NSERC/Husky Energy Industrial Research Chair in Safety at Sea.

Dr. Brian Veitch
Dr. Brian Veitch

Critical to ocean industries

Over a five-year period, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Husky will each contribute $550,000, the Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador (RDC) will contribute $500,000 and Memorial will provide $1 million in collaboration with St. John’s-based Virtual Marine Technology, which will provide in-kind support.

“Enhancing marine safety is critical to the sustainability and advancement of our ocean industries,” said Christopher Mitchelmore, minister, Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development, and minister responsible for the Research & Development Corporation.

“This investment demonstrates the provincial government’s commitment to strengthening R&D expertise in support of enhanced safety and efficiencies for personnel working at sea.”

“Dual purpose”

As the research chair, Dr. Veitch will bring a strong practical perspective to the program using simulators that he and his team have developed as virtual marine environments to investigate human performance in offshore settings.

Training of master’s and doctoral students will be a key element of the chair program.

“[The simulators] will provide a research setting to enable studies of human factors in offshore emergencies.” — Dr. Brian Veitch

The students will work with Dr. Veitch, each other and industry partners to develop new marine simulation technologies in the area of safety at sea.

“The simulators will have a dual purpose and will reinforce each other,” said Dr. Veitch.

“They will provide a research setting to enable studies of human factors in offshore emergencies and other safety critical operations, and training tools to enable the transfer and mobilization of knowledge to the offshore workforce where it can have immediate impact.”

“Innovative solutions”

Dr. Ray Gosine, vice-president (research), pro tempore, says the appointment further enhances Memorial’s reputation for excellence in ocean engineering research and education.

“Memorial has a longstanding relationship with industry collaborators to develop innovative solutions to key technical challenges,” said Dr. Gosine.

“The ongoing work of faculty members such as Dr. Veitch strengthens Memorial’s capacity in the area of marine simulation. Through this new appointment, Dr. Veitch and his graduate students will provide industry with critical insights into improving operational safety and effectiveness in harsh offshore environments. I wish him much success in his future research activities.”

“NSERC is proud to support this vital collaboration between industry, government and Memorial University’s Dr. Brian Veitch, an internationally recognized expert in the field of marine safety,” said Dr. B. Mario Pinto, president, NSERC.

“The different approaches and expertise of all partners provide an ideal training ground for the next generation of workers in the offshore industry, a key economic driver for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

“The safety of our people is our top priority and the reason we continue to support the work of Dr. Veitch and his team,” said Malcolm Maclean, senior vice-president, Atlantic region, Husky.

“Simulators and virtual training environments can better prepare workers and influence the design of future projects to improve safety.”

“Dr. Veitch’s research is critical to better understanding human factors in challenging operating environments,” said Mark Ploughman, acting chief executive officer, RDC.

“We are pleased to support collaboration between local and international industry and academia, and invest in simulation technology research that will grow the province’s R&D capacity in marine and offshore safety.”

Research to market

Industry partner Virtual Marine Technology (VMT) is also collaborating and adding value to the team by bringing insights from the research outcomes to the market in the form of commercial marine simulators.

“VMT has worked with Dr. Veitch and Memorial University in the past on initiatives such as a lifeboat simulator, which has been adopted globally by oil and gas companies to enhance the competency of lifeboat operators on offshore facilities,” said Anthony Patterson, CEO, VMT.

“Working with Dr. Veitch in this new role represents a unique opportunity to develop advanced simulation technologies for the global marketplace.”

Dr. Veitch has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Memorial University. He completed his doctorate at the Helsinki University of Technology, and has been a professor in the Department of Ocean and Naval Architectural Engineering since 1998.

“We’re going to move this research from the lab to practical applications for the workplace.” — Dr. Brian Veitch

His current research focuses on the human elements of safety using the simulators that he and his research team have created. He says he is looking forward to fulfilling the mandate of the chair to improve safety for individuals who work at sea.

“I’m very lucky and grateful,” said Dr. Veitch.

“Husky and VMT are great partners. We’re going to move this research from the lab to practical applications for the workplace. With their support, and the support of NSERC, RDC and Memorial University, our research team here has a wonderful opportunity to innovate.”

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