Crane Safety Under Scrutiny In Offshore Industry

MUA member Gavin Relph raises the alarm re fast track training undermining safety, crane mishaps and oil spills on the Northwest Shelf

"As a crane operator I always have a keen ear for crane mishap stories," says Gavin Relph, IR.  "It seems that every major construction vessel in the Pyreness field, (Exmouth Sub-basin, approximately 20 kilometres offshore from North West Cape, Western Australia) has had one or more incident involving loss or damage to the environment through oil/fuel spills."

While no significant injuries have come to light, Gavin Relph said when he requested information about two incidents on Jascon 25 and Toisa Proteus, he heard nothing back.

"Despite major damage to a ship's hull and a fuel spill into the ocean there was no fleet wide safety notice," he said.

Relph says quality training of personnel should be paramount for the many new entrants to the offshore industry.

Instead, he says, due to the high demand for workers people are undertaking an accelerated curriculum and, with very experience, taking the controls of a crane.

"Do we currently have a training facility that accredits crane operators in safe crane operations working with divers, ship to ship transfers etc?," he asks. "Do we have an internationally recognised certification system with offshore endorsements for crane operators?

"It is high time a register be formed to accumulate all data relating to crane operations and all 'incidents' however big or small in an effort to identify what actions need to be under taken by government departments (NOPSA) and all off shore companies that are truly concerned about safe crane operations in the marine environment," he said. "Only then can we build a training matrix tailored for our industry as a whole."

Tinnies at work

In his letter to the union Gavin Relph also questions the use of aluminium type fishing vessels in offshore work.

"It is quite common for a 15 metre vessel to show up on site with project gear, and on the odd occasion larger items that should be carried by rig tenders," he said. "Recently I had one such vessel come under my hook to take a 15 foot open top container (load 6.5 tonnes). When I alerted the skipper via radio as to the weight of the load he said 'No problem I am good for 10 tonnes'. After some manic hand signals from the two deck crew and to their great relief without incident I landed the load on the deck with barely a foot to spare all around.

"Make no mistake offshore crane operations are dangerous," he said. "With ever changing sea states and unpredictable vessel movement accidents can and will occur.

"With a more thorough and open industry wide reporting system free from recrimination we can all learn from any mistakes that are made.

"Through better training and awareness all stakeholders can enjoy a more productive, efficient and safe industry."