Offshore Shipping Online

A publication for the offshore shipping industry published by Clarkson Research

  • Offshore Intelligence Monthly
  • Menu

    Pan European Guidelines for support vessels launched

    News // March 29, 2006

    Guidelines for the safe management of offshore support and anchor handling operations in the North West European Area will be launched on March 30th 2006 at the Marine Safety Forum All Members Meeting in Great Yarmouth in the UK.

    The guidelines are a significant step forward for the offshore oil and gas supply chain industry. They offer safety benefits to all involved in the supply chain by ensuring that common practices are used by each base, vessel and installation. 

    As companies increasingly look to position themselves as pan-European operators, able to enjoy and profit from freedom of movement across sectors, these pan-European guidelines will be of great value, in terms of both safety and operational efficiency. The sort of close co-operation, throughout the region and the supply chain, which produced these guidelines will also be a vital part of that future.

    For as long as there has been an offshore oil and gas industry there has been a need for vessels to service those platforms, whether delivering supplies or back-loading equipment for replacement and repair and wastes.

    In the UK, the first set of guidelines on how to conduct these operations safely were the  ‘British Offshore Support Vessel Association’s’ (BOSVA) guidelines first published in 1989. These were substantially revised and rewritten in conjunction with the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA) and a new Issue 1 was published in 1996, and revised on a rolling programme in 1998, 2000 and 2002. 

    By the time the 2004 revision came round it was clear that the guidelines suffered from too much duplication and that much ‘best practice’ had been further developed and enhanced. 

    At the same time, there were growing calls for the guidelines to be harmonized with other existing European guidelines to avoid vessel crews having to swap operating practices as they crossed the invisible borders separating the different continental shelves.

    Approaches were made to all nations that had a presence in the North Sea and, in June 2004, representatives from Norway, Holland, Denmark and the UK met to discuss the development of common guidelines for the North Sea. Increased activity west of Shetland, in the Irish Sea and in the Norwegian Sea quickly led to an expansion to the ‘North West European Area’.

    The common elements of the guidelines that had been developed by the UK, Norway and Holland were clear - in particular the co-operation between the ship owners, oil companies and the logistics providers, and this commonality of approach augured well for the development of common guidelines.

    At the same time, moves by the major oil companies to amalgamate their North Sea operations into a single entity had further demonstrated that a national approach to offshore support operations was increasingly outmoded.

    An international workgroup was therefore convened to establish how much of existing best practice could be harmonized into a single set of operating procedures. Aside from national regulations (which would have required a change in the law in each country) it was clear that the areas of commonality far outweighed those of diversity and work was started to draw together the common themes and practices.

    Two years later a common set of guidelines, applicable to the entire North West European Area, has been developed drawing on best practice from every sector and representing the latest thinking on the safe operation of offshore support and anchor handling operations. 

    Remarkably, the consolidated guidelines are (discounting the annexes referring to national laws and new best practice and procedures developed since 2002) virtually the same length as the guidelines for the UK alone.

    The guidelines are a result of the amalgamation of the following existing industry guidance:

    • Norway:  OLF/NSA Guidelines for Safe Operation of Offshore Service
      Vessels (061). OLF/NSA Guidelines for Safe Anchor Handling and Towing (061A).
    • Netherlands: Marine Operations Manual for the SOUTHERN NORTH SEA POOL MEMBERS
    • UK:  UKOOA/Chamber of Shipping Guidelines for the Safe Management and Operation of Offshore Support Vessels.

    For more information, contact: Secretary, Working Group on Guidelines for the Safe Management of Offshore Supply and Anchor Handling Operations (North West European Area), e-mail:; Tel: +44 (0) 20 7417 2819.




    More articles from this category

    More news