STENA LINE’S SEASONAL RECRUITS ARE

DRILLING THEIR EVACUATION SKILLS ON SWEDISH ÖCKERÖ

You have two jobs onboard, the first one is your role in the safety organisation and the second your regular work tasks. This is the foundation of what over 400 seasonal recruits are being taught at Öckerö Martime Center in the Gothenburg archipelago, West Sweden, during the spring. Stena Line has placed a real evacuation system here that releases into the water – the only one in Northern Europe.

very weekend throughout the spring, the Öckerö Maritime Center (ÖMC) outside of Swedish Gothenburg, will host groups of seasonal recruits who will learn maritime safety and become ambassadors for Stena Line’s safety culture. Petter Nystedt is one of the education managers at ÖMC, and he’s been with the association since its establishment in 1998. 

“If there’s a fire at work, most people just go out and stand in the evacuation area, he says, but the demands on those who work at sea are much greater. Whether you work in the cafeteria or within the deck or engine departments, you need to know a whole lot about firefighting, medical care, and evacuation.”

Every weekend throughout the spring, the Öckerö Maritime Center (ÖMC) outside of Swedish Gothenburg, will host groups of seasonal recruits who will learn maritime safety and become ambassadors for Stena Line’s safety culture. Photo: Öckerö Maritime Center

SAFETY STARTS WITH YOU!

In addition to having to follow the strict maritime legislation for passenger ships, Stena Line also has its own safety culture with the motto “Safety starts with you!”. The common thread is that every employee should be led by and always show genuine care for each other and for the passengers.

“Stena Line has always put safety first. We want to be associated with quality and a high level of safety awareness. That’s why it’s amazing to be able to cooperate with a qualitative maritime education centre like ÖMC,” says Mikael Lindgren, one of six Marine Superintendents, responsible for implementing Stena Line’s safety culture.

ÖMC is a non-profit association that started as an education centre for fishermen in Sweden, after several accidents had occurred. Safety courses for seafarers (STCW courses) were added over time and when the international regulatory framework for safety at sea was updated in 2011, the role of ÖMC became even more important, as the then new rules stated that everyone working at sea must update their skills every five years.

Between 2,500 and 3,000 people pass through one of ÖMC’s two training facilities in Sweden each year, on Öckerö outside of Gothenburg and Rindö in the Stockholm archipelago. In addition to the 13 in-house employees, about 60 instructors are hired each year to teach the three main pillars of the education: fire, medical care, and water. ÖMC educates, among others, all volunteer maritime rescuers in Sweden, personnel from the Swedish Maritime Administration, the Swedish Armed Forces, high school students, and personnel from various shipping companies. Since 2009, it has trained most of Stena Line’s seasonal recruits. 

“We feel that we have been able to create something extra special together with ÖMC, not least because we have been able to set up a real MES”, says Mikael Lindgren.

EVACUATION DRILLS SPARKS CONFIDENCE

MES stands for Marine Evacuation System, and it is an inflatable system of slides down to life rafts designed to quickly evacuate large numbers of people from a ferry. Stena Line placed a MES on ÖMC in 2013 to be able to conduct realistic drills with evacuation to life rafts in the water. This year, Stena Line purchased a new MES after their first one having become worn out.

“We are the only training centre in Northern Europe with a MES this big in water. All of Stena Line’s seasonal recruits will test how to evacuate with it. But we’re careful to tell that you’re not here to show off, but to learn. It’s great to see people who are afraid of jumping conquer their fear and gain new confidence”, says Petter Nystedt.

Mikael Lindgren also stresses the importance of taking the edge off nervousness. One way to do this is to show how all safety work follows a process. Our crews are large, and every co-worker has an important, but at the same time specific and very definite, role in the big picture. 

THE MARITIME LEGISLATION ON SAFETY AT SEA

There are several conventions on safety at sea, but the most important is the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS for short.

The first SOLAS Convention of 1914 was drawn up after RMS Titanic sinking in 1912 and stipulated that every person on board must have their own life jacket and a place in a lifeboat.

The current version is from 1974 and became effective in 1980 but has since then been updated several times. It is therefore commonly referred to as “SOLAS, 1974, as amended”. 

Nowadays, the SOLAS convention regulates many different areas, including how ships should be equipped and how cargo should be handled.

The International Safety Management Code (The ISM Code) is a chapter in the SOLAS which, among other things, sets a standard for how operations at sea should be planned and managed, and how to act in the event of an accident.

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