Technical directors from separate consultancy firms serving the offshore industry have cited a lack of training as posing a significant danger to crew safety on offshore installations and vessels.
Speaking at the European Dynamic Positioning Conference in London, representatives from London Offshore Consultants and Seacroft Marine Consultants said a “dilution” of traditional maritime skills within the offshore industry is increasing the likelihood of catastrophic collisions.
“As an industry, offshore industry skills have been diluted over the years. And very much the responsibility for avoiding a collision has been pushed onto the vessel,” said Seacroft Marine Consultants technical director Michael Cowlam.
Both Mr Cowlam and London Offshore Consultants’ Group technical authority DP services, Sen Abhayasinghe said the lack of more catastrophic incidents to date was down to good fortune.
“The failure can happen any time,” Mr Abhayasinghe said, admonishing operators who equate the lack of past failures with a guarantee that a serious malfunction won’t take place in the future.
“Some of the people in the industry think, ‘This vessel has been operating properly for 10 or 15 years,’ … but I think it’s luck,” Mr Abhayasinghe said.
Mr Cowlam agreed on the point, saying there is “enough evidence” of smaller collisions to offer substantial warning for the potential of a larger incident.
“I think, statistically 99% of collisions are with vessels immediately attending the area [of an offshore installation],” Mr Cowlam said.
“There were 14 reported collisions in a two-year period in the North Sea alone,” he said, noting the collisions were “fairly low-level and low-consequence”.
Ultimately, Mr Cowlam said there was a broad tendency among crews to lack a complete understanding of FMEA worst-case scenarios and to work towards the minimum operating standards laid out by classification societies rather than the higher standards of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).
Add to that an over-reliance on technology and the dilution of traditional maritime skills, and there is cause for concern, according to Mr Cowlam.
“We’re moving into the PlayStation generation. People are good at pushing buttons, but they’re not so good at driving ships, anymore,” he said.