Friday, January 28, 2022

Ongoing Problems with Oil Platforms and Supply Vessels Come in for Scathing Criticism

Unions and Accident Authorities Alike Deliver Similar Verdicts After Incidents
Shipping News Feature

UK – Not for the first time offshore oil drilling group Valaris has come in for criticism from safety authorities due to bad management practices. Last February the mooring failure of one of its laid up drill ships caused the vessel, the Valaris DS94 to break free and leave the Hunterston jetty. As a result of this the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where she is flagged, working together with the Marine Accident Investigation Branch, has issued Marine Safety Advisory No.14-21 in advance of the final report.

Now the company has come in for criticism from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has said Valaris had failed to implement a safe system of work to control ship operations within the 500 metre safety radius around its rigs after an offshore platform supply vessel (PSV), the Ben Nevis collided with another of its rigs causing significant damage.

The case has enraged the RMT Union which points out there seems to be a culture of short changing crews on both safety and wages with the Ben Nevis after the vessel, at that time (October 2020) owned by Indian group subsidiary Global Offshore Services BV, was seized by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in Aberdeen after allegations of non-payment of crew and safety concerns.

Ownership of the Ben Nevis is thought to have now changed although she is still listed on the Global Offshore fleet on the company website. The ship started taking on water after the latest accident with the Valaris V92 jack up rig (at that time called Ensco 92 and had to return to port for repairs. The rig itself was undamaged.

Criticism from the HSE of Valaris was unstinting, reading:

“The manner in which you (Valaris) performed the marine operation was contrary to your client’s marine operations procedures, the vessels operating procedures, and recognised marine industry practice and guidelines, which advise that ‘risk of collision can be reduced by avoiding weather side working unless absolutely necessary and only under tight control after a risk assessment involving the vessel master and the OIM’. Any requirement to work on the weatherside of a facility must be risk assessed prior to moving into the set-up position. It shall be continuously reassessed until the relevant operations have been completed.

”You are failing to ensure the health and safety of your employees and others not in your employment from the risk of injury arising from collision between attendant platform supply vessels (PSVs) and your mobile offshore installation in that you are failing to implement a safe system of work to control vessel operations within the 500 metre safety zone around the installation so as to ensure that the risk of such collision is reduced to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.

"On 17 November 2021, you undertook cargo transfer operations with the PSV Ben Nevis with the vessel on the drift-on side of Ensco 92 where both the wind and current were pushing Ben Nevis towards Ensco 92, without a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and without having in place reasonably practicable safeguards such as implementing maximum environmental limits for drift-on working, such that when the vessel attempted to comply with a request to change position it was no longer able to maintain position and, by a combination of wind and current, was pushed onto the forward leg of Ensco 92 where it sustained significant damage leading to it taking on water and having to return to port for repairs.

The RMT has mainly saved its anger for the owner/operator of the PSV, but the points made by the unions General Secretary Mick Lynch apply across the sector. He commented:

“The previous owner of the Maltese-flagged Ben Nevis was caught out by maritime regulators in Aberdeen and Rotterdam for failing to pay seafarers wages, and at poverty rates. Now the new owner has been involved in an incident which reflects a safety culture underpinned by commercial pressures. The Valaris installation was damaged (Editors Note: This is disputed) and lives were endangered, as the vessel was knowingly operated in contravention of procedures and good maritime practice.

“Commercial pressure is driving this dangerous behaviour. We have repeatedly called on industry and Government to address the issues around commercial pressure otherwise operators will continue to drive down standards, especially on health and safety, as well as pay, crewing levels and fatigue across the contractor supply chain. Looking at the platform supply vessel network we see consequences such as extended voyages of 2 months or more on board, poverty pay, and in this case non-compliance with basic safety standards in order to win profitable contracts in the North Sea.

“The industry supply chain principles have to be strengthened, or reputable vessel operators employing domestic crews with proven safety standards and decent pay and conditions will continue to be undermined by this disgraceful race to the bottom. With that we will see the potential seriousness of these incidents increase."