Ever wondered why those stand-by boats are there? Every installation must have an Emergency Response Plan which describes how people would be rescued and recovered from the water.
An Emergency Response and Rescue Vessel (ERRV) on standby is one way to aid this rescue. ERRVs exist to:
Respond to an incident on-board an installation and provide rescue services if required;
Recover persons from the sea;
Provide them with medical aid;
Act as a place of safety;
Provide an on-scene coordination in accordance with the installation's Emergency Response Plan;
Warn off approaching vessels and prevent collisions where possible, and
Act as a reserve radio station.
ERRVs may also undertake cargo operations or other activities, provided the primary functions are not impaired.
In the event of a major incident offshore, HM Coastguard will assume the role of Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator, and will liaise with the Duty Holder's Emergency Response entre and agencies such as police, NHS and SAR.
The OIM will be the On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) unless the incident is such that he/she can no longer fulfil that function. In this case, the OIM may nominate someone elsewhere, e.g. the ERRV Master.
Training and preparation is essential if the 3200 seafarers are to respond adequately in an emergency, and both initial training and 'on the job' training are undertaken to OPITO standards.
In 2008, the HSE stated that ERRVs undertake exercises in weather conditions more similar to that experienced in the stormiest months. Since then, ERRVs have undertaken more than 15,000 exercises in such conditions, without injury to personnel or any equipment damage.
The equipment fitted on an ERRV will depend on the number of installations that it is supporting and the number of people it may have to rescue. A single drilling unit may be supported by an ERRV with two Fast Rescue Craft (FRC) and a crew of 12. A large field complex with several installations may be supported by an ERRV with two Daughter Craft (DC), two FRCs and a crew of 18 or more, depending on the workrole. ERRVs remain continuously on station and on call, irrespective of the weather conditions, unless released by the OIM.
Daughter Craft may be deployed up to 10 nautical miles from the Mother Vessel (ERRV) to support over-side working and the other activities on a remote installation. Platform-based radar, coupled with repeater facilites aboard the ERRV, and enhanced communication systems ensure that they maintain communication with the DCs, and are able to monitor a much greater geographic area than with ship mounted radar scanners alone.
FRCs are used for close standby work during over-side working from an installation and are invariably in sight of the ERRV. Both DCs and FRCs have a crew of three, and are capable of speeds of 30-40 knots in calm to moderate working conditions.
ERRVs also have a mechanical means of recovering personnel from the water which can be deployed when storm conditions preclude the use of a FRC or DC. They can also deploy a rescue basket that can be placed in the water as a temporary refuge until personnel can be recovered by conventional means.
ERRVs have rescued 558 poeple since 1986, although half were non-oil and gas related incidents. In recent years, there has been a major investment in the 130 ERRV fleet, and when the remaining 28 new build vessels are delivered over the next two years, more than half the fleet will be under four years old. This bodes well for the future of the industry, and for everyone offshore.