There has been a lot of talk recently in our industry of “self righting” of transfer devices. So much, we had a client ask about the importance of “self-righting” personnel transfer devices. The following is my response to that client:
In all my years at BPC (almost 27), we at Billy Pugh Co. have never had a unit go into the water due to being dislodged from the crane hook. Unfortunately, there has been at least one incident where a crane’s pendent lines failed while personnel were performing maintenance on an offshore rig riding inside a high sided steel work basket. The boom/headache ball and basket went into the water and the two passengers went to the bottom because they could not get out in time. In my opinion, any of the devices on the market that profess to be “self-righting” would have had the similar outcome, as these units do not focus on giving passengers the ability to quick egress in emergency. There is not enough flotation on any device in the world to be able to float all of that steel. Our X-904 gives the riders a fighting chance to get out and get away in the event they were being sent into the water in such a catastrophic occurrence. The self-righting issue sounds really good but in the real world of personnel transfer (that we have been involved in for 60 years) it really doesn’t play much of a roll in the safe transfer of passengers- it is more of a marketing ploy that sounds nice. Even more challenging in this self-righting “benefit” is that to get the bottom of a transfer device heavy enough to float the unit completely upright (even with no crane rigging or headache ball attached) requires a very heavy bottom and an overall weighty device. The reason that the X-904 is made from mostly aluminum is to keep in lighter-therefor safer. Our early X-904 prototypes were made from steel and in our opinion (based on two years of testing) is that it is more dangerous to have a heavy device that may strike passengers in day to day operations that it is to have something float perfectly upright when in the water with no rigging or boom attached. A heavy weight transfer device does though carry inherent danger in day to day operations that has the potential for accidents to happen and has happened. This weight HAS contributed to at least one fatality by one of these heavy devices knocking the person off the platform in which he was standing- causing his death.
Engineering a personnel transfer device for day to day operations is the key to safe offshore personnel transfers. Building features that will never be used that (in turn) do compromise regular transfer operations does not make sense to us here at the company that invented the first offshore transfer device.
“Self righting” is a good buzz word to sell, but when you are actually offshore it’s a non-issue. Your ability to get out of a device when a failure occurs is the most important aspect of safety.