Oct 142009

Big Orange, big Crunch

Big Orange XVIII hit the water injection facility Ekofisk 2/4-W on 8 June 2009 with six times more energy than the facility was designed for, says a report from Norway’s Petroleum Safety Authority, PSA. The incident occurred because the autopilot on Big Orange had not been cancelled before it entered a 500 metre exclusion zone and so did not respond to course alterations input by the officer of the watch and Ekofisk Radar operators did not adequately monitor the vessel’s movements inside the exclusion zone and passed no warning to the vessel.

Says the PSA report:”ConocoPhillips has not adequately complied with the requirement to monitor all activity in the safety zone so as to avoid undesirable events. ConocoPhillips has not made adequate provisions to ensure compliance with its own requirements for safe entryinto the 500-metre zone…
Ekofisk Radar did not respond to the speed alarm for Big Orange XVII during the time 0406 – 0408, and did not make the vessel aware of its course directly towards the Ekofisk facilities.

“Big Orange XVIII was given permission to enter the 500-metre zone without ensuring that the required tests had been performed. ConocoPhillips has stated that their governing documents do not fully describe how speed irregularities are to be handled, and that the maritime competence of personnel at Ekofisk Radar is deficient.”

“ConocoPhillips’ own internal requirements relating to entering of vessels have not been sufficiently complied with by the responsible operations unit.”

Two similar incidents have occurred:
In March 2004, the supply vessel Far Symphony collided with the drilling facility West Venture on the Troll field. The direct cause of the incident was that Far Symphony held a course directly towards the facility, at the same time as the autopilot was not deactivated. With the autopilot activated, the duty officer on the bridge was prevented from performing the planned maneuvering. Underlying causes mentioned include the fact that the duty officer on the bridge had not followed the checklist completely when arriving at the 500-metre zone. A full review would have revealed that the autopilot was active. The duty officer on the bridge was convinced that the autopilot was deactivated when entering the 500-metre zone, and did nothing.

In June 2005, the supply vessel Ocean Carrier collided with the bridge between Ekofisk 2/4-P and Ekofisk 2/4-T. ConocoPhillips’ internal investigation recommends several measures for better control of vessels, for example during navigation in autopilot mode and upon entering the 500-metre zone. It is also pointed out that work routines related to vessel monitoring should be assessed. Parts of the Marine Operation Manual, in particular chapter 5 relating to maritime operations in the Ekofisk area, were revised after this incident.

The incident highlights the need for ships’ officers to consciously confirm autopilot status, for radar operators to actively monitor vessels within the exclusion zone, and for an appropriate level of communication between vessel officers and offshore facility radar operators.

Full report here


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