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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 found.

Vic Gibson

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 round.

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.

Vic Gibson

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 LOLER regulations.

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 fatal.

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. 

Vic Gibson

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.

Vic Gibson

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. 




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