Examining Marine Safety Operations
- Philip Strong (Reflex Marine)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- January 2008
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 32 - 33
- 2008. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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Millions of crew transfers must be carried out around the world each year to keep the offshore industry going. Crew supply is one of the highest-risk activities in offshore operations, whether passengers are moved by helicopter or boat. Historically, risk management for marine-based crew supply has received little priority, and a lack of reliable information has generated misconceptions about the true risks and has masked breakthroughs. However, many operators are now attaching a high level of importance to all crew-supply activities. Exceptional progress has been made in the development of safer, more efficient alternatives, with operators, vessel owners, and transfer specialists all making important contributions.
Many operators are now looking more closely at their crew-supply options and are re-evaluating established methods. Choices are being influenced by a number of factors, such as cost, downtime risk, passenger comfort, journey times, and safety. A new generation of high-speed crew-supply vessels brings the prospect of fast, efficient, and safe vessel-based crew supply to the industry, which may place even greater focus on the evaluation of these operations.
For industry professionals to make appropriate choices and to drive safety improvements, they need a good appreciation of the risks. In vessel-based crew supply, the crane-transfer operation is widely accepted as the key safety concern. A scarcity of data both on activity levels and on incidents has made it difficult to develop a clear picture of safety performance. However, in the past few years, progress has been made. A major US operator and a major international vessel company have shared their personnel-transfer-incident data with Reflex Marine, and these incidents were added to an existing database gathered from public sites, including the US Minerals Management Service, the Petroleum Safety Authority in Norway, and the UK Health and Safety Executive, as well as from private reports.
It is estimated that more than 5 million crane transfers take place each year, a large-scale activity of an order comparable to the numbers moved by helicopter. The collated sample data include more than 60 crane-transfer incidents, resulting in 48 injuries and seven fatalities. Of those incidents, most of which occurred within the past 10 years, 32% involved lateral impact, 40% falling, 23% heavy landing, and 5% immersion. Although crane transfers are rightly regarded as a high-risk operation, it is important to view this in the wider context. The data indicate that the level of fatalities (per crew transfer) is lower than for helicopters, although injury rates are considerably higher.
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