Crew Transfer: Is Crane or Helicopter Safer?

By MarEx 2014-06-20 20:18:00

Risk assessments currently used to assess the safety of crew transfer offshore use outdated statistics, and there is no central system for recording levels of activity and incidents. In order to improve safety performance and raise the profile of this operation DNV GL has carried out a study for the newly launched Marine Transfer Forum.

The Forum brings together offshore operators, vessel operators, lifting specialists, and transfer system manufacturers to increase industry knowledge and mitigate risk.  Founder members include Reflex Marine, Enermech, Seacore Marine and DNV GL.

By creating this forum, operators will for the first time have a system to provide (anonymous) data on personnel transfer activity which will be used develop good quality risk data which will be made available to the industry.

To start this, DNV GL has analyzed available data on global marine transfer accidents collated by Reflex Marine. This estimated that 5.15 million passengers were transferred from vessel to installation by crane in 2012.  From 2009 to 2013, there were five fatal accidents, meaning the average rate is approximately one fatal accident per year worldwide, or a one in five million chance of fatality in each transfer. 

This compares to one in 400,000 chance of fatality if transferred by helicopter, 11 times higher than crane transfer. It should be noted that the crane transfer data excludes risks in transit, whereas helicopter data covers the complete journey to/from shore.

These results will be used to improve risk assessments of marine transfer. The Marine Transfer Forum will encourage systematic and regular data collection, and aims to compile more comprehensive statistics in the same way as the offshore industry does for helicopter operations.

“Each year the offshore industry makes about 5 million personnel transfers from crew boats,” said Philip Strong, CEO of Reflex Marine. “This is not far short of the nine million annual transfers by helicopter but marine transfer attracts little attention compared to the well organized and resourced offshore helicopter industry.”

“Risk assessments commonly rely on estimates of marine transfer risk that we published 20 years ago,” said John Spouge, principal consultant with DNV GL. “We are very pleased to work with the industry to make the risk estimates more accurate and help manage the risks more effectively.”

Picture credit: Reflex Marine