Walk to work rig revolution

15th October 2006
A REVOLUTIONARY piece of equipment has been unveiled in Lowestoft that might not only improve safety for offshore workers but may change the face of the industry forever. The Offshore Access System (OAS), developed by Dutch company Fabricom, uses a sophisticated system of hydraulics to allow a walkway to be created safely between a ship and an oil or gas platform. It means that, for the first time, companies can transport workers on and off platforms in the southern North Sea by boat, something that has until now been considered too dangerous. One expert has likened it to being able to walk to work. Using a support vessel provided by Dutch company Smit - the Smit Kamara - the system could revolutionise delivery of services to unmanned platforms, enabling workers to sleep on board ship and climb on and off platforms when they are needed. As the pioneering ship made its debut in British waters on Friday, senior members of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) welcomed the technology, saying it had the potential to improve safety for offshore workers significantly. HSE operations inspector Steve England said: "This is a concept that is at the cutting edge of technology, and we are very interested in how it works. We will be working very closely with Shell as this becomes operational in the southern North Sea. "This is a way forward, an alternative way of getting people on and off platforms, and we are keen to see how it can improve safety offshore." The technology went operational in April but has only been used so far on Shell platforms in Holland. To date, the company has completed more than 400 successful hook-ups. Shell is hoping to have the Smit Kamara operating in the southern North Sea by next April, and over the coming months it will be attaching compatible landing equipment to more than 50 Shell platforms. Alan Jones, Shell's product champion for OAS said: "Historically, we have always flown to platforms, but it is becoming increasingly difficult because of the weather, because of the cost and the time wasted getting on and off. This vessel opens up a lot of doors to us." Source: Lowestoft Journal