International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 4
Number 3
September 2010
Emergency towing is a high-risk operation. In order
to increase the success rate of such operations, spe-
cially designed vessels and highly trained crews
ought to be employed. However, in most parts of the
world, governments are not willing to spend money
on dedicated vessels designed to handle worst-case
scenarios. Instead, they usually opt for multi-
purpose vessels that can perform a number of differ-
ent tasks under normal operational conditions. For
extreme operational conditions such vessels in some
cases becomes “multi-useless” vessels, as they are
not equipped to handle extreme situations. Nor are
crews trained to handle their vessel in these situa-
tions, which may increase the risk of unsuccessful
outcomes of emergency response operations under
the extreme operational conditions that exist in Arc-
tic waters.
A number of relevant papers were presented at a
conference in Brest in July 2000. Capt. Charles
Claden gives a good presentation of lessons learnt
from the Erika disaster. During the discussion Capt.
Claden said: “Regarding salvage, emphasis should
be given to improved training through more exercis-
es and on better documenting the different emergen-
cy towline systems installed on vessels”.
Based on experience from emergency towing op-
erations, the International Maritime Organisation
(IMO) approved Resolution A535 (13) “Recom-
mendation on Emergency Towing Requirements for
Tankers”. According to the IMO regulations tankers
above 20,000 DWT must be equipped with one
strong point at the bow and an emergency towing
system (ETS) at the stern. Larger tankers over
150,000 DWT will have 2 strong points and an ETS.
At the 35th meeting of the Maritime Safety
Committee (IMO MSC 1994), the guidelines for
emergency towing arrangement on tankers were ap-
proved. These state that the major components of the
towing arrangement should be as listed in Table 1.
These requirements are written in a functional form
in order to allow for different design solutions. One
commonly used design for the strongpoint is the
Smit Bracket. Different manufacturers offer differ-
ent designs, which may create problems in an emer-
gency situation, especially when trying to establish a
towing connection for an abandoned ship.
Training Course for Personnel Involved in
Emergency Towing Operations
T. E. Berg
MARINTEK Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute, Trondheim, Norway
G. Gudmundseth
Ship Manoeuvring Simulator Centre, Trondheim, Norway
U. Klevstad
Norwegian Coastal Administration, Troms and Finnmark Region, Honningsvaag,
ABSTRACT: This paper presents development of and experience from a simulator based training course for
personnel in Norwegian emergency response operations. As a response to governmental white papers on
emergency preparedness and safety at sea in Norwegian waters, it was decided to develop a simulator based
training course with focus on emergency towing operations. The first part of the paper describes work done
by a group of subject matter experts appointed by Norwegian Coastal Administration. This group assisted
Ship Manoeuvring Simulator Centre to specify the content of a three days training course for deck officers on
emergency response vessels. Two test courses were run in the summer of 2006. Feedback from these courses
was used to update and extend course content for the first ordinary courses that took place later that year. The
second part of the paper reviews course experience and feedback from course participants. The final part of
the paper describes the links between the simulator based course and the research and development activities
in the R&D project “Arctic Emergency Operation” involving partners from France, Germany, Japan, Norway
and United Kingdom.
Table 1 Major components of emergency towing arrangements
for tanker
Component Forward Aft of ship Strength
of ship requirements
Pick-up gear Optional Yes No
Towing pennant Optional Yes Yes
Chafing gear Yes Depending on design Yes
Fairlead Yes Yes Yes
Strongpoint Yes Yes Yes
Roller pedestal Yes Depending on design No
In recent years, the IMO Sub-Committee on Ship
Design and Equipment has organized a correspond-
ence group that is looking into the need for similar
requirements for other types of vessels larger then
20,000 DWT. In a paper delivered at the 50th ses-
sion of the Sub-Committee in 2006(IMO 2006) it
was requested that the Sub-Committee:
Agree, in principle, to the draft Guidelines for
owners/operators on the development of emer-
gency towing procedures as developed by the cor-
respondence group
The Guidelines have been divided into three main
Ship evaluation The evaluation of the vessel's
main characteristics (current condition) and avail-
able on-board equipment
Emergency towing booklet (ETB)
Developing procedures Guidelines to help cre-
ate a procedure on how to connect and be towed
by another ship in an emergency situation.
INTERTANKO has also recently been working
on emergency towing, with a focus on towing lines
and their characteristics.
There is well-established collaboration on safety
at sea among the Bonn Agreement (Bonn Agreement
1983) partners, covering shipping activities in the
North Sea.
Norway and Russia have agreements regarding
cooperation in cases of at-sea incidents in the Bar-
ents Sea. The initial agreement on oil pollution was
signed in 1994 and the agreement on search and res-
cue operations in 1995. Since 2003, a joint working
group with representatives of the Ministry of
Transport of the Russian Federation and the Ministry
of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs in Norway meet
twice a year to discuss how to improve safety at sea
in the Barents Sea.
In 1993, the Copenhagen Agreement was extend-
ed to cover the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Ice-
land, in addition to the original participants Den-
mark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. In 2007,
Norway and Iceland also agreed to start exchanging
vessel traffic data for vessels leaving/entering these
countries' EEZ.
The Regional High Command Northern Norway ini-
tially had the responsibility for coastal contingency
planning and response in Northern Norway. The
command had direct access to the resources to be
used, especially Norwegian Coast Guard vessels. In
2005 the Norwegian Coastal Administration’s De-
partment of Emergency Response was set up and
took over the responsibility from the Regional High
Command. The Norwegian Coastal Administration
is responsible for the chartered emergency response
vessel in Northern Norway.
The contingency planning for acute pollution has
three layers; private, community and national. The
Norwegian Coastal Administration is responsible for
governmental contingency planning and is the exec-
utive body for handling large acute oil spills and
preventing such accidents. NCA holds responsibility
for the governmental towing support service in
Northern Norway. Based on a study led by Det
norske Veritas (DNV 2006), it was decided to use
the following data when specifying the necessary
towing capacity for governmental emergency re-
sponse vessels working off the coast of Northern
Hold/manoeuvre vessels up to 100,000 DWT
without own power under the following environ-
mental conditions:
Wind speed 20m/s
Current speed 1 m/s
Significant wave height 5 m
At present two emergency response vessels are on
duty during the summer and three in the winter sea-
son. These vessels are located as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Operational regions for emergency response vessels
All vessels are multipurpose vessels and their per-
formance as emergency towing vessels is limited. In
a note prepared by the Norwegian Coastal Admin-
istration (NCA 2007) the following improvements to
the present contingency situation have been pro-
Towing vessel capacity should be raised, espe-
cially in the summer season
Oil-spill combating equipment needs to be im-
proved for cold climate operation/low tempera-
tures, icing conditions)
Training of personnel to handle situations in
darkness and at low temperatures
All policy statements made by government agen-
cies and oil companies involved in oil exploration
and production off the coast of Finnmark say that
“The contingency for shipping and marine opera-
tions in the Barents Sea should be the best in the
world”. There is thus a need for government organi-
sations to develop a common definition of specific
objectives and action plans to implement this con-
tingency organisation, purchase necessary equip-
ment (including mission-adapted vessels) and train
personnel who will be involved in combating mari-
time emergency situations.
In the course of the past few years, a number of situ-
ations have arisen in which vessels in distress in
harsh weather have needed the assistance of emer-
gency towing vessels. To establish an emergency
towing connection is a challenging operation, in the
course of which the emergency response vessel has
to manoeuvre close to the disabled vessel. A highly
skilled and experienced master is needed for such an
operation. How to train masters for such vessels is a
challenge, as emergency towing in harsh weather is
a rare event for personnel on other vessels than dedi-
cated emergency towing vessels. Different solutions
have been selected nationally and by the major sal-
vage companies for qualification of personnel on
emergency response and towing vessels. Generally
speaking, it is important to build crews with a strong
degree of respect for each other's field of expertise.
Companies such as Smit Salvage and Abeilles have
their own in-house training program for personnel
on board their emergency towing and salvage ves-
In 2003, the Norwegian Coastal Administration
started a project that had two main objectives. The
first was to prepare a set of functional requirements
for vessels to be used in the authorities' emergency
preparedness system. The second was to specify a
list of competences needed by senior personnel on
emergency response vessels. With this list in hand,
NCA reviewed existing training offers in Norway
and concluded that these were unable to deliver what
they required. They then decided to fund the devel-
opment of a specific training course to improve the
competence level of personnel involved in tasks
specified in the National Emergency Towing Con-
tingency Plan. In 2005, SMS was invited to take part
in the development of a simulator-based training
course as one element of a competence enhancement
plan for personnel on emergency response vessels.
The Norwegian Coastal Administration appointed an
expert group to help SMS to develop a simulator-
based training course. It had representatives from:
The Norwegian Coastal Administration
The Regional High Command Northern Norway
The Norwegian Coast Guard
Tanker operators
The expert group was asked to specify course ob-
jectives, evaluate the need for necessary extensions
of simulator software and hardware and specify the
instructor qualifications needed for this highly spe-
cific simulator-based training course. At an early
stage it was decided that the target group of trainees
should be
Management and deck operators serving onboard
vessels scheduled to form part of the National
Emergency Towing Service.
Shore-based personnel with tasks in the National
Emergency Response plan relating to handling
disabled vessels.
The types of training objectives for this course
have been divided into the following categories:
Basic knowledge and understanding of the phys-
ics of towing operations
Towline characteristics
Handling of the tug when preparing the towline
Procedure training
Team work and Bridge Team Management
On the recommendation of the expert group, the
following items were included in the course pro-
National and International Regulations
Towing Vessels and Towing Equipment
Towing Manual and Standard Procedures
Preparing for the Towing Operation
The Towing Operation
Forces Acting on Disabled Vessel
Towing Connection and Towing Vessel
Arrival Port of Refuge
Simulator Exercises
Relevant chapters from SOLAS and MARPOL as
well as national regulations from the Norwegian
Maritime Directorate, the Norwegian Coastal Ad-
ministration and the Regional High Command
Northern Norway will be discussed on the course.
Parts of the DNV rules for Marine Operations will
also be highlighted in some exercises.
For the towing operation the training objectives
are related to
Arrival at disabled vessel
Pick-up of emergency towing equipment
High-risk elements during manoeuvring close to
the disabled vessel
Connection of towing equipment
Operation of towing winch/cable
Tension in towing cable
High-risk elements during towing
Some of the aspects to be reviewed when the tow-
ing connection has been established will be :
Towing Speed
Towing Wire Length
Arrival at Coastline/Port of Refuge
Towing in Shallow Water
Towing in Narrow Water
Towing without Assistant Tug(s)
To be able to start training as early as possible it
was decided to start courses using existing simulator
models for anchor-handling and platform supply
vessels. For these vessels it was necessary to per-
form some additional force and visual modelling of
the towing arrangement, towing gear and towing
winch. Figure 2 shows an early visual model of the
aft deck of the Coast Guard vessel KV Harstad and
the towing line for a calm-water towing operation in
confined waters.
Figure 2: KV Harstad towing a simulated disabled vessel
The simulator exercises have been developed to
enable the trainees to learn more about:
External forces (wind, current, swell and waves)
Manoeuvring close to a disabled vessel
Maintaining disabled vessel in position
Turning and stopping the drift of a disabled ves-
Arrival at coastline/Port of refuge
Towing with assistant tug(s)
Locations for training scenarios were selected so
as to represent traffic patterns and for sites where the
consequences of an oil spill from a grounding or
grounded tanker would be serious. The simulator in-
structor has the option of changing weather condi-
tions during an exercise. The expert group has pre-
pared a list of failures that can be introduced during
simulation runs.
Initially, two test courses with eight participants
on each were held, one in May and the other in Sep-
tember 2006. The objective of the test courses was
to collect feedback from trainees on course design,
course material, exercises and simulator fidelity.
Participants were nominated by the Norwegian
Coastal Administration. Course participants repre-
The Norwegian Coastal Administration
The Norwegian Coast Guard
The Regional High Command Northern Norway
Tug operators
The topics of the three-day test courses can be di-
vided into three main items:
Introduction to rules and regulations
Study of previous cases
Training in the simulator.
In addition to the oral debriefing at the end of
these courses, SMS used a one-page written ques-
tionnaire. For most of the questions a five-level
score form were used. Table 2 shows some of the re-
sponses of the participants. Only the top three score
levels are shown in the table as there were no items
where the two lowest levels were used by the train-
ees. As can be seen the course was well received by
the trainees, who made a number of suggestions on
ways to improve the outcome of the course. The
written learning material was updated on the basis of
feedback from the participants. The briefing and de-
briefing activities were modified to increase trainee
Table 2: Evaluation scores of test course participants
Activity Topic Good Very good Excellent
Theory Content 11 5
method 11 5
Instructor 6 10
Exercises Training goal 6 9 1
Briefing 10 6
challenge 9 6 1
Debriefing 9 7
The results of the evaluation was used to update
course content and written learning material as well
as to improve simulator software and adapt the visu-
al system to include important cues used by experi-
enced tug masters. The participants recommended
that the course should be extended by at least one
After the test courses, four ordinary courses were
held in 2006. Based on feedback from the test cours-
es the final course length was increased to four days.
Participants on the ordinary courses have included
representatives of on-board and on-shore manage-
ment involved in emergency response operations in
northern Norway. Table 3 shows the results of the
written questionnaire for these courses. For all topics
the feedback is more positive than for the test cours-
es shown in Table 2. It can be seen that instructor
performance has been improved, training goals made
more relevant to real-life operations and the briefing
and debriefing sessions made more interesting.
Table 3: Evaluation scores from course participants
Activity Topic Good Very good Excellent
Theory Content 13 16
method 10 18 1
Instructor 1 26 2
Exercises Training goal 7 21 1
Briefing 10 19
challenge 9 19 1
Debriefing 11 16 2
In 2007, 6 courses were run with a total number
of 42 participants. The total score showed that
course got a mean score of 4.0 on a 1-5 score list
(where 5 is top score – or excellent).
In 2008, 5 courses took place with a total of 45
participants. The mean score on the feedback form
was slightly higher then for 2007.
4.1 Improving ship models
The participants asked for updated mathematical
simulator models representing the three vessels that
are part of the emergency response system for the
winter season in northern Norway. This is due to the
important differences in the manoeuvring and sea-
keeping performance of these vessels. Due to limited
personnel resources at SMS the development of
ship-specific models will be limited to only one of
the emergency response vessels. KV Harstad was se-
lected as a case vessel for the development of a new
mathematical model. Part of this work has been done
at MARINTEK using the 3 degrees of freedom
(DOF) model employed in MARINTEK’s SIMAN
software (MARINTEK 2005), which is based on:
Numerical calculation of added mass using
Empirical expressions for linear damping terms
Crossflow drag formulation for non-linear damp-
ing terms
Empirical formulae or manufacturers' data for
rudder forces
Empirical formulae or manufacturers' data for
propellers and thrusters
Empirical corrections for hull-rudder-propeller
Empirical models of wind forces.
To validate the model, MARINTEK has access to
model tests for the UT-512 design, which is the
basic design for KV Harstad, as well as calm-water
manoeuvring tests. As the shipyard delivery tests are
very sparse on vessel manoeuvrability, it was neces-
sary to run additional sea tests with the actual vessel.
Calm-water standard manoeuvring tests according to
IMO recommendations (IMO 2002) were done late
October 2006. These measurements were used to
tune MARINTEK’s calm-water model.
However, emergency response operations will
usually take place in a harsh weather conditions. It is
thus necessary to develop a complete 6 DOF model
for emergency response vessels operating in rough
seas. This work is currently under way at
MARINTEK. To validate the 6 DOF model a new
set of manoeuvring tests was done in relatively harsh
seas late November 2008.
4.2 Other requests for simulator model
The course participants also asked for more realistic
representation of the wave field on the lee side of a
disabled vessel. This improvement will eventually
be made by manipulating the visual database for the
sea surface. There will be no calculations of the ac-
tual wave field for a multibody situation. It will not
be possible to implement this modification within
the time-frame of the ongoing “Arctic Emergency
Operations” project. It has also been requested that
the visual presentation of the towing line during a
towing operation in harsh weather should be made
more realistic. Experienced masters will be asked to
take part in a face validation of possible solutions to
make the visual representation of the towline more
realistic. These modifications may be based on sim-
plified mathematical models of the towing line.
In addition to the simulator based training course
deck officers on the chartered emergency response
vessels in Northern Norway are performing regular