The oil and gas industry has just 18 months to upgrade critical release hook systems on offshore lifeboats to meet new regulations imposed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to improve safety at sea.
According to the organisation, the number of failures during drills and inspections which resulted in casualties or injured crew members has been unacceptably high. Launched in 2011, the IMO regulations state that lifeboat release and retrieval systems must be evaluated and replaced no later than 1 July 2019. This will involve the complex and costly removal, retrofit and replacement of lifeboat systems globally.
Ampelmann, the global leader in offshore access solutions, is offering its Atlas motion-compensated lifeboat exchange system to the oil and gas industry to provide a faster, safer and more cost-effective alternative to traditional procedures which can be performed within a wider operational window. The Atlas system can also be used to transfer large pieces of equipment and delicate or complex cargo as well as replacing lifeboats to meet personnel on board (POB) requirements.
Currently, many lifeboats on fixed oil and gas installations and floating platforms are inaccessible by in-situ cranes, meaning that lifeboats are lowered in the sea, navigated to a vessel and lifted by crane onto the ship’s deck. This traditional ‘wet’ transfer can only be carried out in near-perfect weather and sea conditions and can lead to significant vessel downtime and risk to personnel performing the transfer operation. In addition to this, it puts the allowable POB limit at risk.
The Atlas system involves the lifeboat being lowered directly onto the cradle of an active heave compensated installation system located on the deck of the supply vessel. The hexapod absorbs any vessel movement in significant wave heights up to 3.5 metres, while the davit retrieves the lifeboat from a fixed horizontal position. It can also be used for multiple change outs across several assets within the same operation, both on conventional and free-fall lifeboats.
The company recently supported the removal and replacement of two lifeboats from a North Sea platform. The duty holder recommended the procedure for a ‘best in class’ safety award demonstrating a positive impact of eliminating risk to marine personnel.
Lorenz Nehring, Ampelmann’s Business Development Manager UK, said: "The IMO deadline is a call to action to ensure that lifeboats are re-hooked, fit for purpose and of the highest safety specifications. The industry would be prudent to prepare and plan now to carry out the potentially risky operation of removing, upgrading and replacing lifeboat release and retrieval systems without affecting downtime and safety to personnel. Ampelmann can support this initiative to ensure the replacement of lifeboat release and retrieval systems is carried out efficiently, without impact to safety and day-to-day operations."