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    Seminar highlights need for safer personnel transfer

    News // September 19, 2007

    Strong: crew transfer is potentially risky operation.

    The need for greater safety in marine personnel transfers was highlighted at a seminar and demonstration held in Aberdeen.  The crane transfer seminar was organised by Sparrows Offshore and Reflex Marine, and supported by the Health and Safety Executive.

    Reflex Marine is involved in safety reviews, audits and has developed the 'Frog' personnel transfer capsule which provides a complete marine transfer solution, incorporating an outer protective shell and a shock-absorbing seating assembly.

    The seminar, which was attended by key figures in the North Sea oil and gas industry, was followed by a safety demonstration of the Frog at the Sparrows Training Centre, Aberdeen.

    The process of transferring offshore crew by crane from vessel to installation is potentially a high-risk operation. However, the approach to marine personnel transfer between vessels and offshore installations rarely receives critical review and, compared to helicopter transfer, standards are far less stringent.

    Information gathered independently by Reflex Marine suggests worldwide more than 5 million crane transfers take place each year, of a similar order to the numbers moved by helicopter. 

    The data collated includes 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 per cent involved lateral impact, 40 per cent falling, 23 per cent heavy landing, and 5 per cent immersion.

    It was concluded that 80 per cent of all incidents would have been avoided with better equipment and operational controls.

    Although crane transfers are regarded as a high-risk operation, the data indicates the level of fatalities (per crew transfer) is lower than for helicopters, although injury rates are considerably higher.

    Reflex Marine managing director Phil Strong told seminar delegates that improvements in marine personnel transfer equipment and standards were essential requirements for the industry in the 21st century.  

    He also emphasised that the creation of an accurate and impartial database for recording incidents offshore should be a key priority.

    "Vessel-based transfers are seldom treated with the same seriousness and focus as helicopter operations, although globally similar numbers of people are moved by both. While helicopter operations are bound by tight regulations, the approach to marine personnel transfer has been much more ad hoc," he said.

    "From the seminar it was clear that a growing number of industry leaders agree with us that this situation could be improved. We heard several instances of injuries occurring during transfer by basket followed by costly lawsuits and legal expenses. However, crane transfers are an essential tool and, with a minimum investment, can be performed safely. In contrast to the high incident rates in some regions, a single operator in Asia has carried out over a million man transfers using the Frog without a single serious incident," he explained.

    A number of delegates took the opportunity to try the Frog for themselves and reported that they felt comfortable and secure.  During landings they reported that they felt virtually no impact.

    Mr Strong added: "Historically risk management for marine-based crew supply has received little priority. A lack of reliable information has also generated misconceptions about the true risks and masked some important breakthroughs. However, change is afoot and 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."


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