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Stena Drilling – Keeping the marine crews on our moored semi-submersibles ‘Ship Shape’

Stena Drilling – Keeping the marine crews on our moored semi-submersibles ‘Ship Shape’


At Stena Drilling, our core values of ‘Care, Innovation & Performance’ are key to day-to-day business processes.

A recent success story demonstrating the application of these core values, which has the potential for wider benefits if replicated across the drilling contractor community, has been the company’s proactive approach to achieving STCW certification for our deck crews on-board one of our semi-submersible units.

The Problem

When operating a UK Flagged vessel, the Master/OIM must ensure compliance with the vessel’s Safe Manning Document (SMD) as issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). The SMD details the number of marine qualified crew members required on-board at any one time to ensure that the vessel is adequately crewed for any emergency situation.

A challenge for Stena Drilling when operating the UK flagged semi-submersible ‘Stena Spey’ has been formulating a plan to train experienced crew members in the deck department enabling them to achieve STCW II/4 deck rating certification. Despite the Stena Spey being classed as a ‘Class VII’ vessel, we found that our experienced roustabouts and crane operators were unable to achieve this certification because of the nature of the Spey’s work, its mode of operation and the requirements of the training programme which fails to recognise our crew’s sea-service when on a moored unit. Whilst the vessels safe manning certification requirements were always met, this inability to achieve II/4 certification reduced the flexibility in terms of fleet succession planning and also impacted recruitment processes which meant that experienced roustabouts without II/4 certification were unlikely to be considered for roles despite boasting impressive experience on their CV.

To achieve II/4 certification, or Navigational Watch Rating (NWR), each candidate must be medically fit to carry out lookout duties at night and complete the basic ancillary training for a seafarer, which includes:

  • Personal Survival Techniques.
  • Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities.
  • Elementary First Aid.
  • Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting.

The above is not a problem for offshore oil and gas deck crews working on-board the Stena Spey, who are amongst the most experienced in the North Sea, with relevant STCW and OPITO approved training courses included within our comprehensive training matrix for our crews. In addition, each candidate must complete at least 6 months of sea service aboard one of our vessels. Again, easy enough to achieve compliance, as each member of Stena Drilling’s offshore staff are registered seafarers with the Master/ OIM on-board confirming sea time upon completion of each successful trip.

The challenge for our deck crew was in meeting the final requirement for a navigational watch rating; the requirement to provide evidence of steering the ship and contributing to the safe watch on-board. On a moored semi-submersible that is only ever moved under tow by an anchor handling vessel, the challenge to Stena Drilling was formulating a plan to provide evidence of steering a ship to fulfil this final requirement. In essence – how to you drive a ship that is moored?

The Solution

The innovative solution developed by Stena Drilling’s Marine Department was to conduct this training in-house and become a certified training establishment. A dedicated team was established to extensively research the regulatory requirements as well as the practicalities of developing a programme that could be implemented to provide this opportunity to the crew of the Stena Spey.

After much hard work, in 2017 Stena Drilling were granted accreditation from the MCA to train and certify Navigational Watch Ratings in accordance with the “Seafarers Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention Regulation AII/4 and UK statutory instruments relating to training of seafarers”. Detailed training procedures, records of training, and certificates were developed in house with guidance from the MCA which then allowed for the implementation of this robust training programme for NWRs.

To achieve the NWR certificate Stena Drilling adopted a two-pronged approach to get prospective candidates the required sea time on a suitable vessel.

The first was to utilise the other vessels within the company’s fleet (Stena Carron, Stena DrillMAX, Stena Forth and Stena IceMAX), with Stena Spey crew members joining the vessel for inter-country transits in between client programmes.

Much in the same way as the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) Training Record Book for Cadets is completed; the individual elements are delivered and verified by the certified deck officers aboard the Drillship, with the final signatory being the Master of the vessel prior to being reviewed ashore by the Training Department and Marine Department. The sole purpose of this experience for the crew members was to gain extensive knowledge of bridge procedures, steering, and night navigational duties expected of a Navigational Watch Rating.

Along with broadening the skillset of our crew, this also gave crew members normally used to the day-to-day work of a rig within the North Sea a glimpse of life aboard a drillship. As a result of this, a number of crew have now transitioned into the ‘international’ fleet and continue to develop their skillset and careers within Stena Drilling.  

A second avenue was to send crew onto contracted AHTS vessels, not scheduled to be on the tow, for rig move operations. To allow this, Stena Drilling had to reach out to the broker (Braemar ACM) and the AHV owner (Viking Supply Ships A/S) to ascertain if they could assist in a temporary transfer of our crew to their vessel to carry out the training (namely the steering certificate and look out duties). Not only did this build the skillset of our crew members who joined the AHV, but also gave them an excellent chance to see how anchor handling operations were conducted from the AHV’s point of view, which as a member of the crew aboard a semi-submersible isn’t always an opportunity they would get a chance to embrace.

“Whilst I was aboard the anchor handling vessel to obtain my steering ticket, I gained good experience and a view into anchor handling operations that I had not previously seen. The Captain and First Mate took the time to explain to me the various bridge instruments, bridge commands, and how to steer a ship. This was a very different, but beneficial experience compared to what I had previously gained aboard a Rig.” – Arthur Hough, Roustabout, Stena Drilling.


“Care, Innovation and Performance” is more than a tag line – it’s what we do at Stena Drilling, especially when it comes to the training of our personnel. If we look closely at this example above, we can see how all three elements have been encompassed to allow greater opportunities for our staff offshore. Broken down, it can be seen as:

Care: ensuring all of our personnel are qualified to the highest standard, a standard which as a company, we hold ourselves to.

Innovation: not only in developing the training but reaching out to other organisations to assist in the development and facilitation of training. A gap was identified, and we found the solution.

Performance: linking the two above items together, ensuring our crews are well trained and certified. Exposure across the fleet and third-party vessels allows Stena Drilling to have some of the highest qualified marine personnel in the North Sea.

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE.

Published: 05-04-2021

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