Volume: 5 | Issue: 4

Safety for a Helicopter Load/Unload Operation on an Offshore Platform: Optimization From Several Viewpoints and the Psychological Aspects of the Marshaller


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Helicopter operations are important in the offshore oil and gas industry. Helicopters perform a variety of roles, including crew change, logistics supply, and medical-emergency and evacuation duties. Because helicopter accidents can have fatal consequences, many helicopter safety reviews and arguments have been conducted. The pursuit of operational safety is continuous work. More industry experience contributes to more safety. This paper focuses on the specific helicopter operation that comprises the loading/unloading task of a slickline/wireline job on an offshore platform. The discussion was carried out as a case study that was based on actual operational experience.

When a slickline and/or an electrical wireline job is required on offshore oil/gas platforms that have no crane equipment, a helicopter load/unload operation is a common method used for transporting materials such as winch units, power-pack units, blowout-preventer units, and lubricators from the platform or from the offshore complex to the platform. A series of materials is transported separately by helicopter so that one lifted material can be within the maximum loading capacity of the helicopter. A materials-transportation package typically consists of four or five load/unload operations for an entire set of materials. These frequent load/unload operations are performed with a hovering action, which has the highest risk among helicopter actions (i.e., taking off, cruising, and approaching/landing). To achieve safety, all risk-mitigating factors are adequately incorporated into a plan that should be shared with all crew (pilot, company supervisor, slickline/wireline operators) in advance of the operation.

This paper discusses mitigations from various points of view, in addition to summarizing general safety tips. As a result of considering the psychological response of the ground crew on the basis of actual field experience, this paper recommends ways to remove mental factors that silently act on the actions of a helicopter marshaller. Moreover, fundamental measures are recommended to update marshalling methods and to use new-generation helicopters that are designed for improved safety requirements.

Read or download the full SPE paper 174721-PA