Development growth will further pressurize tight standby market

Close to 190 people have been rescued from North West Europe drilling rigs and production platforms over the past decade by the North Sea standby vessel fleet. This is one of the statistics emerging from a new report*, co-authored by analyst John Westwood and Jeremy Daniel, chairman of the Standby Ship Operators Association (SSOA). The report covers all aspects of the standby industry, ranging from forthcoming new guidelines for industry practice to long-term requirements for the sector. The

Close to 190 people have been rescued from North West Europe drilling rigs and production platforms over the past decade by the North Sea standby vessel fleet. This is one of the statistics emerging from a new report*, co-authored by analyst John Westwood and Jeremy Daniel, chairman of the Standby Ship Operators Association (SSOA). The report covers all aspects of the standby industry, ranging from forthcoming new guidelines for industry practice to long-term requirements for the sector. The authors press, for instance, for Europe-wide standards for standby vessels.

Last year, they claim, providing standby vessel services in UK waters cost around 1% of the value of oil and gas produced in that sector - equivalent to 1.4% of the salary bill for offshore personnel. Over the next five years, the possible development of up to 38 new manned fields could constrain availability of the standby vessel fleet, forcing oil companies to make longer-term contractual commitments. Currently the North West European market for standby vessels is valued at over #200 million, a figure expected to grow to #238 million by 2001.

Among the authors' concerns are the wide variations in standby vessel requirements and certification standards across Europe. They are also uneasy about vessel sharing between different fields and installations on economic grounds.

There seems to be an implicit assumption in such arrangements, they argue, that an individual can survive low temperatures in the sea over a given period prior to rescue. "We are concerned that these assumptions may not fully take into account the more immediate dangers of cold shock and aspiration of sea water, which can combine to claim many more lives than core temperature drop."

Finally, the authors are unhappy about the growing adoption of standby vessels on a multi-role basis, extending to handling offloading oil hoses, infield cargo transfer and ROV operations. "Where this occurs, it is essential the vessel is still able to respond immediately to an incident."

Last September, (SSOA) and the UK Offshore Operators Association issued draft guidelines for the survey and operation of standby vessels for UK offshore installations. These were intended to replace the existing HSE/MSA Green Code which had been in place for many years. The new guidelines tackle subjects such as the operation of daughter craft and the choice of detection and rescue systems. They foresee all standby vessels being classed as merchant ships by a flag state authority, with these vessels' specialist standby needs being assessed by a surveyor from any competent body, such as a classification society, against the Assessment Guidelines.

Arrangements for Offshore Recovery and Rescue is available from Douglas-Westwood, Whitebeams, Pett Bottom, Canterbury, Kent, UK. Tel: (44) 1227 831879, Fax: (44) 1227 832092 or E-mail:dwadmin(a)douglas-westwood.co.uk.

Copyright 1997 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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