As South Africa moves along its journey toward energy security, the need for the safe and responsible exploration of natural gas options has become even more critical. An offshore training centre based in Cape Town last week marked a major milestone in its efforts to support this drive for safety.

“The need for skills and expertise in the energy sector has never been more pressing in South Africa,” says Gary Concar of the Offshore Africa Training Centre (OATC). The centre celebrated its 10th anniversary on 22 February 2024 and welcomed a new survival training course that will even better equip its students.

“We were honoured to have Joe Meanen, one of the legendary 61 heroic survivors of the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster, as a speaker at our event,” says Concar. Meanen shared his inspiring account: a harrowing reminder of the importance of safety offshore, and a deeply moving story of human resilience in the face of one of history’s most catastrophic gas rig disasters.

As exploration ramps up and new fields are discovered, South Africa’s southern seas will play host to increasing numbers of drill ships and floating production storage and offloading units. This growth will see demand for internationally approved energy sector workforce members increase – especially for professionals who are trained according to the most rigorous safety standards. It is this demand that the OATC facility will meet with its new training course.

Meanen spoke to guests about his experience during the fire at Piper Alpha, an event that claimed 165 lives back in 1988. His message, he explains, was about the need to realise that this could happen to anybody at any time. “It is important to be prepared as best you can, especially if you are working offshore or in oil and gas and chemical plants. You need to make sure you have the right equipment and machinery so you can cope with any situation.”

The government has emphasised the importance of accelerating the energy transition as an element in economic stability and energy self-sufficiency. In a shifting energy paradigm, with hydrocarbons forecast to account half of the global energy mix by 2030, natural gas and renewables in particular have emerged as a crucial resource facilitating the energy transition.

The OATC facility – the first in South Africa to offer OPITO-accredited training – runs courses covering key topics like rigging, lifting, slinging, banksman duties and LOLER (lifting operations and lifting equipment regulations) and now the OPITO Survival Courses (BOSIET CA-EBS etc). OPITO is the global, not-for-profit skills body for the energy industry.

“Liverpool-based SAFER Training has been a key partner in OATC’s 10-year journey, and has been instrumental in our competitive edge, and the growth we’ve enjoyed in South Africa. SAFER Training provides a range of internationally recognised courses to the various energy sectors globally,” says Ian McMillin of SAFER Training.

The event showcased OATC’s commitment to highest standards of health and safety at a crucial time for the energy sector in and around South Africa.

Image credit: Petri Oeschger 

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