By Philip Strong Providing safe and efficient access to offshore installations remains one of the great challenges for the offshore industry. More than five million marine transfers are performed in the offshore oil and gas sector each year, which make it a vital industry activity and the dominant form of transport for many offshore workers worldwide. All crew transfers are potentially high risk, but, for marine personnel transfer, these can be significantly reduced if the following rules are applied. These rules have been created by Reflex Marine and industry partners including offshore marine support vessel company Seacor Marine and Sparrows, a world leader in offshore lifting and handling services. Based on the experience of millions of transfers over more than a decade, the rules are designed to prompt operators to consider a range of diverse factors which influence the safety and efficiency of crane transfer operations. 1. Understand your risks - each operation is unique, so perform a risk assessment to help ensure you understand your site-specific risks. Consider the vessels, cranes, transfer equipment, weather and sea-state and crews involved. Identifying the key risk drivers and ensuring that extra scrutiny is provided when lifting personnel are also important. 2. Be familiar with your conditions - check prevailing weather and sea conditions (including tides and currents). Discuss vessel positioning and station-keeping with the vessel master and crane operator (identifying specific risks or concerns). Understand the limits of your equipment. 3. Know your vessel – the specific vessel engaged is a major consideration, in particular its station-keeping and stability. A large, clear landing area, free from adjacent obstacles, will reduce risks. Crew competence, familiarity with the installation and communications (particularly radio and hand signals) are also key factors. As an example, and in line with our drive to create safer and more reliable crew supply solutions, Reflex Marine worked with Seacor Marine to develop a crew transfer solution for use on its CrewZer Class high speed catamaran vessels. The vessel (the Seacor Cheetah) has been working in Angola for more than a year without incident, having completed in excess of 30,000 passenger transfers. 4. Know your cranes – you must be aware of the limitations of your cranes (modern offshore cranes are designed to meet the challenges of the marine environment). Cranes should be well-maintained and all appropriate certification in place. The crane location is also important, as is the lift height, the line of sight of the vessel and the choice of slow or fast lane. Understand the function of the crane’s emergency lowering systems and ensure this can be operated in the event of a prime mover failure. 5. Know your transfer device - carriers on the market range from very basic to the more protective so you need to select equipment suitable for your operating envelope and risk levels. Check all equipment is in safe working condition. Rigging (slings) are of particular importance as they are prone to damage and deterioration. Equipment should be maintained according to the manufacture’s recommendations and critical components sourced from the original equipment manufacturer. 6. Be familiar with your crews – the training and competence of vessel and installation crews is a key consideration and should be addressed in company procedures. Crane operators and vessel masters have particularly important roles to play. Ensure proper PPE (eg hard hats, safety glasses, safety footwear, life vests) are worn by all passengers. 7. Plan your lift – dangerous collisions can occur when transfer devices, misaligned with the crane hook, swing upon pick up from the vessel. Harsh weather can exacerbate the problem. Pay attention to avoidance of collision and snagging hazards. Where possible perform lifts over water and retain a good line of sight of the carrier. Note: good communication (including radios and hand signals) between the vessel and the crane operator are essential. 8. If in doubt, stop – perform trial transfer runs without passengers. If there are still doubts about the ability to perform the operation safely, suspend the operation. 9. Recognize complex operations - many factors can complicate transfer operations and increase risks. Such risks should be recognized and managed. Common factors include lifts from moving structures (such as mono-hull vessels and floating platforms), extreme weather, poorly specified vessels, inexperienced crews and poor installation layout. Where appropriate seek expert advice. 10. Emergency planning – crane transfer can be an essential tool for managing emergencies such as medical evacuations. Integrate crane transfers into your emergency planning and perform drills to confirm your capabilities. The partners in this initiative have compiled a high quality briefing video and have agreed to make the Golden Rules available to the whole industry on an ‘open source’ basis – for example the video will be made available in online downloadable form. We all expect our commute to work to be safe, whether by road, rail, land or sea. We hope and believe that this initiative will be an import step forward in this regard and that the risks associated with vessel-based transfers will continue to fall. By Philip Strong, Managing Director, Reflex Marine