Fencing at Fittie
Many words have been written on this site and
elsewhere in the media about the loss of freedom for seafarers resulting
from the post 9/11 increases in port security worldwide. Indeed the
Telegraph, the well known organ of the seafarer's union, NUMAST reports even
in the September edition that the ITF is engaged in trying to maintain the
rights of seafarers to shore leave when their craft are tied up. Indeed
there was apparently a global protest on September 30th.
Fortunately for the crews of ships visiting
Aberdeen, there is no restriction on their movement in or out of the dock
gates, and in fact until recently there weren't even any gates. Because of
the layout, and antiquity of the port there are many different areas where
ships lie alongside, and only gradually have these areas been closed off. We
are possibly left with only two accessible areas, Blakie's Quay where the
vessel waiting for a spot hire lie alongside and Fittie, one of the oldest
public quays in the port, and therefore one of the oldest quays in the UK.
The harbour authorities are now proposing to
fence off the quay, much to the distress of the people who live in the
locality who fear that the result will be an increase in the number of HGVs
rumbling past their walls. People who live elsewhere in the area but who
like to drive down to the quayside to watch the ships come and go, fear that
the quayside car park will be fenced off. Their concerns have been
extensively reported in the local press, which has failed to make the
connection between the increasing the number of fences and the terrorist
attack on the world trade centre.
Would the people of Aberdeen have expressed
concern had some means of keeping the seafarers on board their ships had been
Goodbye to the BUE Victor
On the afternoon of September 19th we looked
out of our window in the Lemonade Factory to see the ERRV BUE Victor leaving
on its way back to the oilfields, not realising that in a few hours it was
to become news. On the same evening the ship caught fire and after the crew
had spent some time fighting the fire - in the engine-room we think - they
decided to abandon ship and were were winched aboard a rescue helicopter and
taken back to the beach.
The vessel was subsequently taken in tow
by the Highland Endurance, which headed towards Invergordon and safety.
However it was observed that the ship was taking on water in the inclement
conditions, and so in the words of the Seabroker's report "the authorities
in conjunction with the owners decided the best course of action was to tow
her out to deeper waters of the Moray Firth". This decision resulted in the
Victor sinking somewhere off Buckie, which might be even be a good thing!
It is probable that the wreck will make Buckie
a mecca for scuba divers, who enjoy poking around rusting hulks on the
seabed. The ship will become a breeding ground for a variety of threatened
fish species, and as a result the dolphin population of the firth will be
increased. This in turn will fuel the Moray coast tourist industry and more
small fishing boats will be pressed into service taking dolphin watchers and
deep sea fishermen out to the wreck. In fact it sounds like a good deal all
The BUE Victor was 31 years old, and a a new
career as a breeding ground for fish might be the best thing that could
happen to her.
A Personnel Transfer Device Fatality
We, as safety case practitioners, continue to support our clients in their
efforts to get the personnel transfer device accepted as a reasonable means
of evacuation from offshore installations, despite the existence of the
HSE Assessors have taken the view that it is
not possible to make a proper lifting plan for the use of the Billy Pugh in
an emergency and that therefore it cannot be used to evacuate to an
attendant support craft. This despite the fact that when-ever an evacuation
takes place anywhere in the world this is how it is done. Of course
the LOLER Regulations also effectively prevent the Billy Pugh being used,
because those standing on its periphery could be injured if they were
accidentally swing against something.
The latter legislative requirement has
resulted in an increasing use of the "Frog" which is a sort of rigid tent
shaped object with three open sides. The sides have seats set into them and
the object is lifted at the apex by the crane. The resultant lift conforms
with the LOLER Regs and may be a little less frightening than the Billy
Pugh. However, despite the fear induced by being lifted on the Billy Pugh we
have never heard of anyone falling off one, and our research has not
identified any accidents relating to their use.
We were therefore distressed to learn that
there has been a fatality relating to the operation of the Frog, and as a
result an industry wide alert is being circulated. Somewhere in the Russian
Federation a marine superintendent for a shipping company providing cargo
ships for pipe carrying activities was to be lifted from the ship to the
pipelayer. The operation was to take place from on top of a hatch two and a
half metres above the deck, and it seems that as he approached the Frog it
moved and knocked him of the hatch cover. The fall to the deck proved to be
One of the problems was that when the Frog is
landed it is not obvious that there is no weight still on the crane. It is
perfectly obvious in the case of the Billy Pugh, so in relation to the
personnel transfer device it could be argued that one set of risks have been
exchanged for another.
There are those who believe that the LOLER
regs were not really formulated with the intention of including basket
transfers, and we think that the regulations should be changed to exclude
them. We are told that there is no chance of this happening. The detail is
just not that important. We can only say that a change might allow offshore
installation to plan to use the basket as an evacuation means, and this
might result in the saving of lives in the North Sea. Surely this is worth a
bit of our MP's time.
(Sorry if none of the above means anything to
you - it requires a familiarity with UK safety legislation)
We have recently been
contacted by Reflex Marine who market the Frog. Apparently
these few words are having an adverse effect on their
sales - or at least the public perception of the safety of
the Frog. They have pointed out that the safety alert
which details the accident was issued without any
discussion with them, and that in fact the landing area
was on the partially closed hatch of a bulk carrier,
limiting the useful space available. In this situation it
is possible that any form of personnel transfer device
would have been unsuitable. They also say they have many
records of accidents caused as a result of transfer taking
place between rigs and ships using other sorts of device -
but then they would have wouldn't they.
However - regardless of
any agreement or disagreement between us about the
effectiveness of the Frog and whether it is safer or less
safe than other equipment, we are both agreed that
personnel transfer devices have their place, both in
routine activities and in emergencies, and we feel that
the regulators should recognise this fact.
Safety Case Training
We reported last month that we had decided to
hold Safety Case familiarisation courses, and that we had advertised in the
well known oilfield magazine the "Roustabout".
The advertisement resulted in one enquiry,
which was a bit disappointing and left us wondering whether there was no
interest in the safety case or whether no-one was opening Roustabout. The
one person who did enquire really confirmed our suspicions that very few
people are actually interested in the Safety Case, and the HSE objective to
make it a document which involves the workforce may just not be possible.
The offshore installation safety case was
originally intended to be developed by the operators of the installations so
that they - and the "they" here is the management of the installation -
would understand what was required to keep the workforce on them safe.
We are not complaining that the task was
really too complex for the management of offshore installations to take on
directly, and that as a result specialist skills have been developed. After
all this is our bread and butter, but we do share the HSE view that
management should understand the safety case regulations and how they are
applied. After that we get to the workforce who should understand the safety
case for the installation on which they are working.
How are any of these people going to develop
this understanding without some training. Even a thin operational safety
case probably runs to 500 pages, and some are multi volume documents. At the
very least they should be able to turn to the bits of the case which will
tell them how safe it is to be there, what recommendations have been made to
make things safer, and whether they were accepted or rejected.
We could go on!!
If this rant causes anyone to be more
interested they can still give us a call on 00
44 1224 894498.
More about Pipelaying Anchors
I have taken the liberty of publishing an
email from a shipmaster who has considerable experience of working with
pipe-layers, since it might help others who are still engaged in the job. It
was sent in response to my article about the Stevns Power.
I remember well those heart stopping moments when
the stern of the vessel would get swamped, you could feel the stability
disappearing, and you need to act quickly to get the boat upright and the
weight off the roller. Like you mentioned, this was mainly in the case of
running the breast anchors, with the barge winding in the mooring as fast as
they could go, and me screwing the stern of the boat around in order to get
the mooring to move towards the new drop position.
After a year of this, when working with a bunch of
guys from MacDermots on a pipe lay job in Bombay High, someone mentioned
that some boats used to re-run the anchors by pointing the bow towards the
barge. This to me sounded like a good idea, none of this thrashing one
engine ahead, one astern in order to reach the required drop position. From
then on, that was the way I used to run the anchors, but you needed a good
winch driver on the barge.
The method was to get the anchor up to the roller,
back the boat towards the barge a little o get some slack in the mooring,
then spin the boat to get her pointing towards the barge. In the case of a
stern breast anchor, would aim for a point forward of the moorings fairlead.
Once turned, it was then full speed towards the barge, at the same time the
barge winch would be sucking in the wire full speed, the trick was to match
the vessels speed to the winch so that the mooring would not pull on the
stern. As you approached the barge, you could feel the wire starting to
unstick from the sea bed, and also watch the lead of the wire in the
fairlead start to move forward, and all the time would be angling the boat
more to the bow of the barge. There came a point when you could feel the
mooring wire start to shake loose from the sea bed, at that point, if you
had judged it right, the boat should be over the new run line. Then it was a
case of spinning the boat onto the new run heading, and calling the winch
operator on the barge, telling them that the boat was now heading out. The
winch operator would throw the winch out of gear and then control the
mooring on the brake. This was a much faster way of running the anchor, and
a lot safer, as it stopped seas shipping over the stern. Incidentally, I
always had the AH winch out of gear and on the brake, just in case the
anchor had to dumped quickly.
Captain Nigel Sly
New Format for News and Views
For the next 12 months I am taking some time off
from the website for other writing projects and so we are offering the
opportunity for others to express views, or to offer news on the site. The
views can be what anyone thinks about anything in the marine world, and
particularly the offshore industry. The news can be what-ever is happening
anywhere, including press releases - as long as they are not too boring.
I am thinking of offering a prize for the best news
or views item, but more details about that on 1st November.
This website averages about 300,000 hits a month so
there is a good readership out there.
FOR INDEX OF NEWS AND VIEWS CLICK