Anchor-handling operations are high risk, especially when mobile drilling units are being prepared to shift location. The vulnerability of anchor-handling vessels is clearly demonstrated by the loss of the Bourbon Dolphin west of Shetland in April, 2007, and the Stevns Power offshore West Africa in 2003.
Co-operation at all levels between the platform and the anchor-handling vessel is required. Detailed planning, preparation and implementation are necessary, and there is a very high demand for appropriate skills and competency for all involved.
Concerned that something needed to be done, StatoilHydro and Marathon Oil teamed up with Norway’s Aalesund University College to kick-start a project aimed at improving skills and competency during such operations.
The objective of the project would be to develop a competency and training framework for anchor-handling operations. The framework would address competency and training regarding the collaboration aspects of anchor-handling operations, as well as knowledge, skills and attitudes for the individual roles.
The work would focus on core competencies, selecting an approach leading to practical, realistic, simple and robust training opportunities and describing relevant retraining and practice requirements.
The first phase of the project is now under way and will run through to June, 2009.
During this period, a limited area of the anchor-handling operations will be selected by the assembled working group for a pilot study to evaluate the appropriateness of the approach taken. Members of the group come from Aalesund University College, Offshore Simulator Centre, Dolphin Drilling, Solstad Offshore and Olympic Shipping.
A steering group has been pulled together to guide the Aalesund work. It comprises Marathon Oil (chair), StatoilHydro, Farstad Shipping, Bourbon Offshore, Norwegian Centre of Expertise Maritime, and Aalesund University College itself.
Observers are also drawn from the Norwegian Maritime Directorate, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority.
The loss of the Bourbon Dolphin on April 12, 2007, during routine work resulted in eight deaths and is a stark reminder to the entire offshore industry that safety must always be foremost in the minds of tug masters.
The ship was owned through the Norwegian arm of French group Bourbon, whose CEO, Jacques de Chateauvieux, warns in the latest issue of Professional Mariner that the West of Shetland anchor handling operation should have been stopped long before the 247ft vessel capsized.
It was on October 19, 2003, that the Danish AHT, Stevns Power, sank while operating off the Nigerian coast. At the time, she was moving an anchor, one of 12, which was holding the position of the Castoro Otto, a semi-submersible rig-shaped pipe-laying vessel.
Unlike the Bourbon Dolphin, this was not a new vessel, being built in 1976, but the procedure was one she and her crew were largely familiar with and had been doing regularly for at least two years with the Castoro Otto prior to her capsizing and sinking.