Reducing Incidents During Crew Transfers

When Charlie leaves his house to go offshore for two weeks he knows his family are as safe as they can be. He has smoke detectors fitted, a security alarm and fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage. He drives to his check-in in his faithful pick up. It has ABS brakes, four wheel drive in case of bad weather, heavy duty suspension, bull bars and multiple airbags. The tires are in great shape and of course he is securely strapped in. On the rig he has full protective gear, hard hat, safety boots, gloves and safety glasses. He will travel out to the field in a modern crew boat, equipped with all the latest safety devices.

Unfortunately, when it comes to transferring from the boat to the rig Charlie is less well protected. Marine transfers are a hazardous business and regrettably injuries and sometimes fatalities occur. One of the largest vessel operators in the Gulf of Mexico carries out an estimated 32,000 crane transfers per year and estimates that there are 120,000 to 150,000 transfers annually throughout the Gulf. In the past 5 years, the operator is believed to have had 35 serious incidents of which 19 involved litigation proceedings with potential costs of up to $2.7m. This operator is currently in the process of a complete review of their equipment and procedures.

The trouble with traditional basket transfers is that they rely very heavily on human responses and judgement and minimal protection is offered to passengers if something does go wrong. Also, the lack of detailed operating guidelines and limits for such equipment places even more responsibility (and pressure) on personnel in the field.

One young employee said of his first experience; "Going offshore with no formal safety training was scary. No one explained how I was to get on the basket and I was hanging off it ineffectively as it started to lift up. One of my colleagues started shouting at me telling me how to stand and hold on to the ropes, and in an instant we were being lifted about 120 feet up over the back of a crew boat. I thought it was a very risky way of transporting personnel and was told different anecdotes of accidents, people falling off on to the back of crew boats or hitting structures."

In order to address this problem, Reflex Marine set out to design the safest transfer device on the market. The result was the development of the Frog capsule, which is engineered to provide comprehensive protection to its passengers. The company has also developed detailed operating procedures and video briefings to give clear guidelines on the use of the Frog to the crane operator, the deck crew, the vessel skipper and its passengers.

Picture Caption 1: The Frog transferring crew from a drilling rig

The Frog was put through the most rigorous testing program of any device on the market. A study was carried out by the Motor Industry Research Association to verify protection to the spine and neck during heavy landings and side impacts. The effect of any heavy landing is absorbed by a heavy-duty spring under the seat assembly, while specially designed seats protect the spine.

Seat belts have saved numerous lives when fitted to automobiles and the seat belts provided in the Frog also provide vital protection. They prevent injuries due to impacts and also prevent passengers falling as a result of being dislodged from the device during a collision or sudden motion. Upon landing passengers can exit the capsule in less than 3 seconds through open sides. Should the worst happen and the capsule lands in water, the Frog is able to float and stay upright, a process vigorously tested in a wave pool.

Picture Caption 2: Passengers transferring to a waiting vessel in the Gulf of Mexico

Reflex Marine believes that improvement to equipment design and operational procedures will allow the industry to dramatically reduce and even eliminate accidents during crew transfer from vessels.

To find out more, contact Brian Morr of Reflex Marine in Houston +1 713 589 9436 or email [email protected]

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