Monday, 26 August 2013

Super Pumas or S92's...can't we find a 'Third Way'?

Now, there's been a lot said, written and thought these past few days and I definitely do not want to add fuel to any arguments, both the worthwhile kind OR the Facebook-based ones (which seem to consist mainly of over-reaction, vitriol and sheer ignorance).

Instead I'd just like to add my own personal perspective into the mix, as I've said previous to this post, I am currently 'stranded' on a drilling 'Jack-Up' rig attached to a 'Normally Unmanned installation' (NUI) and we heard of the incident late on Friday evening.  We have been watching the rather sketchy updates coming in from the various news sources with a great deal of both remorse and irritated impatience.  We all feel so sorry for the loss of life and the impact on those concerned must be horrendous.  Also we are all interested in the outcome of the forthcoming investigations.

This brings a double burden that it is impossible to get away from.  For while we need to know the reason behind the incident we also want to know exactly how this will impact on us personally in the near future.  Every time I find some new piece of the puzzle I can't help myself thinking, 'How will this affect me?' and then every time I find myself thinking that thought I am immediately struck by how selfish it sounds!

There is nothing I can add to the outpouring of sorrow for those who perished while simply trying to get home from their job.

I had also recently posted regarding the apparent 'safety' of the recently-returned-to-service 225 class of Super Puma aircraft (return-of-the-frack.html) which now seems both redundant and rather gullible!
But that is exactly the problem we have right now.  We simply do not know the reason behind this crash and lazy speculation (the kind the internet is best placed to give) will help no-one, least of all anyone who knew those involved.

I 'shared' a very interesting status on Facebook early on Saturday morning (www.facebook.com/wray.thomson1/posts
and it conveyed a similar feeling among a large part of the offshore worker community, me included.  I found it very useful in getting across the feelings I had in my own mind and would like to thank Mr. Wray Thomson for his articulation.
However, there is one small difference I'd like to get across now (with apologies to Mr. Thomson!)

'We live and work in conditions that are a few steel bars away from a jail cell', he starts.  While reasonably accurate I'd equate it more to Re-hab than prison.  There are no bars on the windows (in fact a lot of the accommodation blocks I visit don't even have windows)...(seriously, I once went 10 days without seeing natural daylight), we don't have access to any drink or drugs (unless you're 'IN' with the Medic) and there's no way we're getting out or going anywhere anytime soon!
So, if it is like re-hab, then we are very much like Lindsay Lohan.  We come to these places (far too often than is strictly good for us), serve our time and then get let out, back into the real world.  Where we drink, take drugs and generally debauch ourselves as much as possible!  Knowing full well that it's only a matter of time before we end up back in here!

Also there seems to be an asuumption amongst offshore personnel that we have a straight choice on our hands of Super Puma or S92.  This seems rather simplistic (and all too easy!) as anyone who's travelled on both will tell you that the S92 is a far superior machine.  The issue we have with this dilemma is that the S92 doesn't have the range or luggage capacity of the Super Puma and is also far more expensive, not that expense has ever been an issue when looking at the safety of the industry's workers (OH NO!!).

All these machines have a natural working life, much like your car at home and eventually there will have to be a point where we go another way.  The S92 HAS had problems before and is by no means a panacea or 'magic bullet'.

No, instead, I feel we need to take stock and let the guys investigate (preferably with no interference from any 'interested' parties) to find the root cause and resolve this issue once and for all.
This is of course going to take some time and have massive consequences for the industry. This is fine by me as I'm stuck out here with no work to do except to make sure I book my days in and get the client to sign my timesheet...

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We wake every morning with the same question reverbarating around our heads,
'When am I getting off this place?'
Well, the answer for me is 'No time soon!'.  With what happened on Friday and the subsequent grounding of all Super Pumas until further notice, the operator of the rig I am on took the decision to abandon choppers for the safer and far more complicated process of 'Frog' style boat transfers.
I can't wait!
No, seriously.  Well maybe not.  I have carried out training on these devices but that was a few years ago, in a yard, attached to a crane, in Dubai.  This will possibly be a little worse!
 We had a safety meeting yesterday where they gave us the good news and this morning we had even better news.  The boat has been passed as OK to use and will be sailing from dock today or tonight, so will get here tomorrow morning (it being a 12 Hour sail).  This boat has to service the entire field.  This field currently has one accommodation barge and two drilling rigs more than it usually would meaning we have over 300 more personnel to arrange transfers for than would normally be the case (Bloody Shutdown Season!!).
These 'Frogs' can transfer 3 people at a time.  I'll leave that to sink in...
Also, our platform spoke to another in the field this morning and he said,
'Yeah, we've got the 'Frog' and we'll be sorting our guys.  Think you'll need to speak to the office to make your own arrangements!'
He may well have just said 'I'm all right Jack, pull the ladder up!'  or he could have Skyped us so that we could see him sticking two fingers up at us while he spoke!

So no, I will not be home anytime soon
PS - this is all weather dependant of course, so we could be sat waiting for a rather long time...

Neil Hannon Rocks!!