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Apparently BP have submitted their proposals to replace 17 ERRVs (Formerly SBVs - Standby Vessels) with six helicopters and some platform based FRCs, much to the displeasure of the MPs in the all party Oil and Gas Industry Group.    They, and the Emergency Response and Rescue Vessel Association appear to believe that submission of the proposals means that the consultation process is at an end.

Everything is going BP's way. They seem to have all possible pressure groups is various stages of hysteria without even revealing the details of their plan, and until they do release to all the interested parties exactly how they intend to fulfil the performance standards relating to the recovery of personnel from the water under a variety "foreseeable events," it will be difficult to determine whether their plans hold water.

One assumes that they have not actually published the details because this is one of the factors which requires consultation by the workforce - mainly in the form of offshore safety committees. The Safety Committees will surely be expecting to see the performance standards on paper before saying they agree or disagree with the proposed process.

There are some who find the performance standards being used at present just a little less than realistic.

Typically it is necessary for the rescue service - currently the ERRV to be able to recover personnel from the water in the event of a helicopter crash into the sea during take-off and landing.

However, it is not possible for the ERRV to launch its fast rescue craft in adverse weather, in which case helicopters are unable to fly and the airport in Aberdeen fills up with distressed oil workers - though not half as distressed as the one left out on the rigs. So to extend the envelope within which the helicopters can fly, many ERRVs are fitted with a Dacon scoop, which allows them to scoop bodies out of the sea in a sort of vast shrimping net.

The HSE has suggested to those operating the rigs that they should be able to test these systems to ensure that the performance standards are fulfilled. This results in ERRVs steaming about picking up dummies in the scoop with the sort of abandon you can afford if the target is plastic. Can these tests really reflect how the ships can actually perform, or should other sorts of standard be used. Could a single helicopter with a winch equal the time taken by a single ERRV in the collection of 21 plastic bodies, because, regardless of whether the standard is appropriate, the helicopter should be able to equal the time taken by the ship.

Or has the Operator extended the survival time for its personnel.

The General manager of BP Amoco in Aberdeen said "Should be proceed to the next phase there will be a period of extensive offshore trials where we will have to be able to demonstrate to ourselves and the HSE how the new proposals can meet the company's performance standards. It is expected that this will take until around the year end to complete."

One imagines that the interested parties will be asking for a look at the performance standards, if for no other reason than to ensure that there is no moving of goal posts. 


On 7th August the Scottish Parliament Oil and Gas Group visited Aberdeen to discuss the BP Amoco plan to substitute helicopters and platform based FRCs for ERRVs (Emergency Response and Rescue Vessels) formerly known as SBVs.

There has been turmoil in the industry since BP Amoco announced their plan and already a counter offensive has taken place orchestrated by the ERRV Association.

The plan appears to have been promulgated by a single announcement in the press and there-after by a video which has been circulated round the BP Amoco Installations. Only a few non BPA people have actually seen the video so the precise nature of the contents remains vague. However, broadly it apparently promotes the concept of replacing the ERRVs with platform based helicopters and FRCs, which offer, according to the video a similarly "good prospect of recovery." Those wishing to read on, and who are not familiar with this phrase should click on the link to Standby Vessels where there is a full explanation.

If these helicopters and FRCs do offer a good prospect of recovery for "all foreseeable events" where offshore personnel might end up in the water, then there is little more to be said, regardless of the views of the offshore workforce and the offshore unions and the ERRV owners. And one should assume that BP Amoco have theoretically distributed the hardware and skilled manpower so as to achieve the required result.

That being said, there is already a tendency for operators to push the boundaries in terms of the performance standards for shared ERRVs, and the practice of deploying daughter craft miles from the mother vessel is becoming more common, to the general distress of the old time seafarers who have an instinctive distrust of small craft.

Given the legislation regarding the recovery of personnel from the water which is in place, it is a bit difficult to see what a bunch of MPs are going to do here, no matter how well meaning, unless they intend to pass judgement on whether the scheme offers the aforesaid "good prospect."

This story will run and run, and we intend to follow it on this page.


This is not intended to be a press release section for Britain's premier oil company but it is turning out that way at the moment. The company has a problem. The Magnus platform is large, and ageing and pretty remote on the northern edge of the UK continental shelf. One of its problems is lack of gas to provide fuel for its power systems.

BP have another problem, which is the production of an excessive amount of gas, in terms of local requirements at its Foivaven and Schiehallion fields out in the Atlantic. It has decided to solve both problems by exporting gas from the latter via a pipeline which will pass through Sullom Voe in the Shetlands.

This sounds like a wonderfully innovative solution, probably made possible by the technological developments in pipe laying, and certainly providing additional marine work in the future 




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