Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority has issued Maritime Notice 13/2008 following worrying reports regarding helicopter/ship transfers, mainly for embarkation/disembarkation of maritime pilots, so it’s probably a good time to give a run-down on safety precautions. While helicopter transfers are usually covered as part of emergency procedures training it may not be apparent that safety procedures may be required in other cirumstances.
Masters should ensure that an intended helicopter landing place can take the weight of the rotorcraft and liaise with the helicopter pilot on suitability. Having a helicopter fall through the deck can be a touch problematic.
Appropriate firefighting equipment and a fire team in appropriate PPE should be on standby.
Only immediately necessary crew should be on deck.
As far as possible all personnel should be situated in such a way as they can be visually seen by the helicopter pilot. All personnel wishing to embark or disembark must be within visual range of the helicopter pilot.
Under no circumstances should a helicopter be approached without the specific approval of the helicopter pilot and follow his advice.
If at all possible, a helicopter should not be approached from the rear. Tail rotors are a significantly hazard, as are main rotors, both of which may be difficult to see, especially at night. If such an approach is required an appropriate strategy for the approach should be agreed between the pilkot and the person in charge on deck, (the helicopter landing officer) and followed to the letter.
Management should ensure that the ship/company SMS procedures cover safe helicopter transfers.
Remember, a helicopter is flying meatgrinder. If you want to keeps bits of you attached to the rest of you, treat them with care.