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World Class Training & Oil Spill Response Partnership in Melanesia



World class training on Swire Pacific Offshore vessels is providing Pacific Towing’s Melanesian mariners with professional development opportunities of a lifetime. Moreover, a partnership with Swire Emergency Response is enabling a world class oil spill response service in the region.


Swire Pacific Offshore (SPO) and Pacific Towing (PacTow) are both part of the international and diversified Swire Group. Whereas SPO is a globally recognised shipping brand, ‘little sister’ PacTow has a more modest profile as Melanesia’s marine services market leader.


Headquartered in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with additional businesses in Fiji and Solomon Islands, PacTow is steadily increasing its geographic footprint in Oceania and South East Asia.


The company’s core services include towage, moorage, salvage, commercial diving, life rafts, customised project solutions, and most recently, in-water hull cleaning.


Training Partnership

SPO commenced training PacTow cadets at the beginning of 2017. The cadets experience four-month intensive training modules on a diversity of SPO vessels such as Anchor Handling Tug Supply (AHTS) vessels and Platform Supply Vessels (PSV) all around the world (e.g., Denmark, Japan, Hong Kong, Scotland, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam). PacTow General Manager Neil Papenfus calls the training both “top end” and “invaluable”.


Papenfus describes SPO as a “highly respected global entity with excellent systems” as evidenced by it winning the ‘Excellence in Offshore Support Award’ at the 2019 Lloyd’s List Asia Pacific Awards held in Singapore. (The award recognises maritime businesses that have demonstrated excellence in supporting the offshore energy industry.)


Without the training provided by SPO, Papenfus concedes that PacTow cadets would be unable to experience working on some of the world’s most sophisticated vessels and in several of its busiest waterways. “SPO’s best practice training on their vessels teaches our cadets how to do things the right way to the highest international standards and they then bring this professionalism back to Melanesia,” explains Papenfus.


Officer of the Watch training for both Deck and Engine cadets is provided by SPO. A considerable training component encompasses safety at sea, including Oil and Gas specific safety training. SPO has established Oil and Gas safety standards, systems and training programs. Oil and gas safety training is critical to PacTow mariners given PNG’s sizeable LNG industry and the company’s plans to further grow its oil and gas market share.


“SPO has considerable experience in training cadets of diverse nationalities and we are pleased to assist in the training of the next generation of Officers for PacTow. We have been in the industry for more than 40 years and are known as a trusted and reliable service provider. As a market leader, we believe in sharing our expertise and knowledge in safety and operational excellence with industry partners and local communities where we operate. Through our training programmes, we hope to do our part to elevate the safety and operational standards of seafarers in the wider maritime industry,” says Peter Langslow, Managing Director, SPO.


SPO invests in statutory and discretionary training for its sea-going employees to ensure that consistently high standards of safety and operational excellence are maintained across its diverse fleet. SPO’s flagship training centre, the Swire Marine Training Centre (SMTC) in Singapore is a Nautical Institute (NI) approved training facility equipped with state-of-the-art training facilities. Structured training programmes are regularly held for seagoing employees. In 2017, SPO made these facilities and courses accessible to industry partners so that they may benefit the larger community of seafarers and collectively raise standards of seafarers in the industry.


Oil Spill Response Partnership

Swire Emergency Response (SER), a wholly owned subsidiary of SPO, has substantial expertise in oil spill response. In 2018 the SPO-PacTow relationship evolved beyond cadet training to include an oil spill response partnership with SER. This partnership involves SER storing its oil spill response equipment (e.g., booms, skimmers, pollutant recovery and storage pods) on PacTow premises in PNG for ease and speed of deployment. Furthermore, SER provides oil spill response training to PacTow mariners so that staff from both companies can provide the service, at times collaboratively, such as the 2019 wreck retrieval of the Southern Phoenix container ship off Fiji.


SER Manager, Simon Valentine, says that “pre-positioning equipment with PacTow and training their personnel in its use and in general oil spill response procedures, substantially increases SER’s capability in the region, allowing us to respond for our joint clients in a timely manner, which is the key to all successful oil spill response incidents.”


Papenfus adds that “the SER-PacTow oil response partnership enables the delivery of an international standard service with in-country infrastructure at a domestic price.” In other words, a world class oil response at an extremely reasonable local rate.


In addition to SER providing oil spill response training to PacTow, the company also trains PacTow clients such as Puma. PacTow and SER work together to regularly conduct training drills and exercises for Puma personnel throughout the year. Oil spill prevention services and equipment are provided to Puma whenever one of its vessels discharges in Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour.


Future Partnership

SPO, SER and PacTow are exploring other ways in which they may work together. Currently there are plans on the table to introduce an Emergency Management training program to PNG’s maritime sector. Such a program would utilise SPO and SER world class systems and training protocols with PacTow playing a support role. Valentine acknowledges that a benefit of “additional training courses, such as the Emergency management training course, will be a raised SER profile for existing and new clients in the region.”


There are other future shared service provision options for the companies to explore. Given the extensive oil and gas capabilities and experience of SPO and SER, PacTow’s desire to increase its oil and gas market share, and a history of working together with energy clients (e.g., oil spill response services for Puma, as well as PacTow having supported SPO move rigs in PNG waters) it is likely that PNG’s burgeoning oil and gas sector will be a foreseeable target for expanding their partnership.


To learn more about Pacific Towing: www.pacifictowingmarineservices.com.

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