By Philip A Strong Recent industry developments provide operators with the opportunity for meaningful improvements in emergency response in a wide range of threatening scenarios. In UK CS and elsewhere, crane transfer could offer a means to affect rapid and secure ‘dry evacuations’ (to the safe haven of an attendant vessel). In areas such as Canada, crane based evacuations are given ‘risk based priority’ over lifeboats and other means. Over the years many lives (arguably hundreds) have been saved by crane based evacuation. In 2001 when explosion damage threatened the Brazilian floating production vessel P-36, operator Petrobras evacuated 138 of their crew by crane, and another 24 via helicopter, before the vessel finally sank. In Europe, crane transfer still carries a negative image with some operators, a kick back from times when these operations were not conducted to a high standard. Also, in the North Sea, infrequent use of transfers for routine logistics (the long distances to offshore installations being a key consideration), strongly color views on their role in emergency situations. This is a little like discarding lifeboats for emergencies, because they would not be considered as safe solution for routine offshore commuting. In an emergency, we must weigh the risks involved in the escape, against the alternatives, which include other means of escape or ‘staying put.’ Another key consideration, is that the development of equipment and best practices in recent years, has ‘radically improved’ the safety of crane transfers. Indeed, ‘blue chip operators’ around the globe are now switching from helicopters to marine based crew logistics (using cranes), which is viewed as a lower risk solution. Evacuations are rarely a simple and each method has its advantages and limitations. The helicopter well established, but mobilizations from shore takes time, and passenger capacity is limited. Helicopters are also vulnerable to platform hazards (such as fire) and adverse weather conditions. Lifeboats provide the option to immediately evacuate entire crews, but the operation is non-reversible and there are significant risks in both launch and recovery operations. Evacuation to a vessel by crane can offers a flexible, low risk solution, immediately available under control of the OIM. However, it relies on the provision of a usable crane and suitable vessel in the proximity. As for the stricken P-36 installation in Brazil, the use of multiple methods can provide the best solution. Down-manning can begin at the early stage of a developing incident, possibly before helicopters have been mobilized. The OIM’s challenge is often to evacuate the largest number of personnel, in the shortest possible time, which may demand a multifaceted approach. Finally, if crane transfer is to be given higher priority in emergency planning, it should receive full consideration in planning and preparation, to make sure it can be used effectively and with confidence when the need arises. To summarize I believe that modern crane transfer provisions offer an excellent opportunity for significant early improvements to evacuation provisions, with minimal investment. That’s my view, but the purpose of this blog is to open this important question up to wider industry audience and I look forward to a positive and constructive debate! Philip Strong co-founded Reflex Marine and has dedicated over a decade to improving global standard for marine transfer operations.