The National Workboat Association (NWA) would like to thank everyone who attended our first Offshore Wind-specific Safety Forum on 6th September, at the Orbis Centre, Lowestoft.
The forum provided a round table discussion for crew transfer vessel operators and managers, and wind farm operators, to address common issues challenges in the safe operation of offshore wind Crew Transfer Vessels (CTVs).
As ever, the objective was to encourage a collaborative approach to advancing safety protocols and the forum raised a number of key concerns, including the management of crew working hours, the step to work interface, and the development of best practice guidelines.
Bringing together CTV operators and offshore wind project owners
Chair of the NWA Safety Forum, Kerrie Forster, welcomed everyone to the meeting. Kerrie explained the motivation behind the decision to run an offshore wind-specific event – namely the need to address communications challenges between CTV operators and offshore wind project owners, which have been a cause for concern from the early days of the offshore wind industry.
The combined Safety Forum was conceived as a means of aligning the interests of the two industries and collectively targeting critical safety issues, with operational staff able to discuss issues directly in an open forum.
In line with this objective, the forum was attended by NWA members and other stakeholders involved in the Offshore Wind sector, with representatives from Eon, Vattenfall, Siemens, as well as those from Ship-owners P&I, Nautilus and Julie Carlton, Head of Seafarer Safety and Health at the MCA.
Refining the step to work interface
First to be discussed was the detailed Risk Assessment Methodology for CTV Technician Transfers that is currently being formulated by the IMCA Renewables Surface Access Working Group. The ‘step to work’ interface is subject to ongoing focus and refinement as one of the riskiest elements of crew transfer operations.
This conversation drew on the expertise of those in attendance, many of those being part of the Working Group, to provide feedback on the methodology, and the risks and mitigation factors listed in the current version. One of the main areas of discussion was the view that, from a mariner’s perspective, the HSE requirement for all technicians to be hooked onto a Safety Line for the duration of the transfer may not always be the safest option. Collective views will be fed into the IMCA working groups discussions in early October.
Management of Working Hours / Rest Time
Managing working hours has long been a concern in the industry, and, as the working scope for operators and crews evolves, will no doubt continue to be raised as a subject of discussion at the NWA Safety Forum.
Building on conversations at the previous Safety Forum, and the Safety Workshop held earlier this year in Manchester, it was explained that the MCA and Nautilus had both been made aware of fatigue issues being reported in the offshore wind sector. It was reiterated that the 10 hours of rest within a 24h time period and 77hrs rest in a week, should be seen as absolute minimum and not standard working hours to work towards. The MCA has provided additional guidance to inform the G+ and will continue to ensure that this issue is clearly articulated within the guidelines.
A number of mitigation factors were put forward based on case studies and the attendees’ own experience, such as the recommendation to stagger shift start times in areas affected by congestion.
It was agreed that these issues are more easily managed on operations & maintenance sites than on construction sites, which were identified to be more under pressure to meet deadlines and which tend to involve multiple contractors. Suggested actions were defined, including seeking to amend the Windtime charter party to include working hour expectations, improving awareness of the issue with MCs and site operators, which will be taken through the IMCA and BIMCO.
Updates on industry guidelines
As ever, the Safety Forum provided a platform for discussion and review of industry best practice guidelines, tools and regulations – including the revised draft of the G+ Small Service Vessel Guide.
Feedback on these guidelines in particular was generally positive, however a shortfall in communication became apparent when it was revealed that offshore wind operations staff in attendance were not familiar with the guide. It is clear that further efforts are needed to ensure that the availability of these guidelines is communicated clearly and that they become a point of reference for both industries.
In other news, ongoing topics of discussion included the launch of the ‘P’ Plot tool by the Carbon Trust, widening of the DROPS scheme to encompass offshore wind, and the Working at Heights Workshop.
Further updates for the membership
Mark Ranson provided attendees an update on the much-discussed issue of UK CoCs in German Waters. It was stated that the interim proposal made by Roger Townerhas been accepted, and once written confirmation has been received the MCA will issue two notices – one to confirm the revised definition and the other to detail the application process.
The NWA is also continuing to represent its members at the IMCA W2W (Walk to Work) and Surface Access Sub Groups . Both work groups are due to meet in the first week of October, prior to the IMCA Renewable Group’s next meeting. Attendees were also reminded of progress for the Revised Workboat Code – nearing issue – and the <500 Large Workboat code, due for public consultation by early 2018.
In terms of additional safety notices, the MCA highlighted the release of a useful guide to the use of Personal Emergency Radio Devices, which members are encouraged to consult. The IMCA also has a more comprehensive study due to be updated.
The value of the combined safety forum was collectively recognised, and it was suggested that it would be useful to continue with regular meetings every 6 months, held in addition to the existing NWA Safety Forums taking place in between. The next NWA Offshore Wind Safety Forum will be scheduled for late February 2018, and members are encouraged to get in touch with possible agenda items and topics for discussion.
In the meantime, to request a full copy of the Safety Forum minutes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.