Managing the working and rest hours of crews whilst ensuring the successful completion of technician transfers continues to pose a significant challenge in the safe operation of offshore wind crew transfer vessels (CTVs), according to the National Workboat Association (NWA).
Furthermore, as demand for specialist workboat support grows in line with the ongoing development and operation of offshore wind farms in UK and European waters, the maritime industry and wind farm owners must take a collaborative approach to advancing safety protocols, this trade, skills and safety standards association for the workboat industry said.
In its first offshore wind–specific safety forum, taking place on 6 September at the Orbis Energy centre in Lowestoft, the NWA will bring together CTV and wind farm operators to ensure that collective interests are aligned and generate open discussion of crucial safety issues.
The agenda will focus primarily on potential fatigue issues for vessel crews and technicians, and the step to work interface, encouraging participants to share information on near misses and incidents in order to improve safety in future operations.
The technical capabilities of state of the art CTVs have advanced at a rapid rate as the offshore wind industry continues to mature and expand – as have the safety features and protocols underpinning their safe operation, the NWA said. However, this unprecedented sector growth has also brought with it increasing pressures that must be managed in order to maintain the highest safety standards.
Symptomatic of the increasing demands and commercial pressures on CTVs and their crews as the offshore wind sector grows and the operational scope of servicing large-scale projects increases, fatigue issues are continuing to pose a safety concern for vessel operators. Going hand in hand with issues related to vessel manning, working hours, and on-board accommodation, the topic of crew and technician fatigue has been well-documented and has been afforded a core focus by CTV operators at the NWA’s safety forums in recent years.
Simultaneously, improving communication between CTV and offshore wind operators, and the continuous development and revision of best practice guidelines, are both measures that have been targeted as crucial factors in the safe operation of offshore wind support vessels, according to the NWA.
The Offshore Wind Safety Forum will provide a platform for analysis of new industry guidelines including the Risk Assessment methodology for CTV Technician transfer operations, proposed by the IMCA working group that looks at the Technician Step to Work interface.
Additionally, the forum invites NWA members and offshore wind operators to contribute feedback on the G+ Small Service Vessel Guide, formulated by leading offshore wind developers to establish protocols for safe CTV operation.
Mark Ranson, Secretary at the NWA, said: “There is a clear opportunity for greater dialogue and alignment between offshore wind project owners and CTV operators. The NWA’s latest Safety Forum is designed to provide a unifying platform for industry debate on crucial safety issues, particularly the step to work interface, which need to be discussed openly and taken forward in a collaborative and expedient manner.”