Crew Boats and Offshore Operations

There are various methods by which to expedite transporting offshore personnel to location, of these methods, the use of a helicopter is the forerunner in accomplishing this. Coming in at a close second—after helicopters—is the less covered, but equally important use of crew boats. However, crew boats have an advantage over helicopters: they can equally haul subsea and topside equipment to and from location. In spite of this, crew boats receive minimal coverage when compared to helicopter based transportation.

                For this reason, this article will further expand on the following: the inner workings of a crew boat; the conditions that can be expected when future and existing offshore personnel board a crew boat for the first time; and how to mitigate potentially adverse conditions during transit.

Figure 1: Transportation helicopter delivering personnel offshore (Source: Toby Cooper)

Composition of Crew Boats

                When viewed from a distance, crew boats and offshore support vessels share a similar resemblance. However, once an offshore worker enters a crew boat’s main room, it is here that the difference between the aforementioned becomes apparent. Such difference comes by way of a tightly packed room filled with rows of auditorium styled seating, lacking rooms with beds or bunks—or a galley— for those being transported. It is here—in this area with minimal spacing—that personnel will be housed until arriving at their destination.

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Figure 2: Crew boat entering Port Fourchon (Source: Toby Cooper)

                Such minimalist design/size of crew boats (See Figure 2), when compared to larger Multi Service Vessels (Reference Figure 3), is what allows them to travel at faster speeds, since they are not outfitted with a high tonnage crane, ROVs and/or subsea installable equipment (It must be noted that a construction vessel’s crane is used to move equipment from crew boat on to its back deck)

Offshore Logistics

                It is important to note that crew boats do not always take a direct line of travel from their port of call to location, but, instead, they are at times tasked with dropping off and picking up additional personnel from different offshore sites as they travel to one’s intended location, this too applies to equipment (See figure 4). The result: extending the time personnel spent on board. And when traversing through rough sea states this can cause great discomfort—due to the vessel’s small footprint—leading to intensified sea sickness. For this reason, it is prudent to bring motion sickness medication/medium with one's belongings—independent of the available medication that may be had by a crew boat, as a precautionary measure. Furthermore, extended time on a vessel in such weather conditions can equally make it difficult for an offshore worker to get a window of rest prior disembarking and beginning their shift.

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Figure 3: Multi Service Vessel being mobilized

Adapting to Deviations

                Another distinctive feature of crew boats—as  previously mentioned—is that they are not outfitted with galleys and a full-fledged cooking staff to serve meals at set intervals. However, depending on the crew boat being used, ample provisions for meals may be had for all personnel being transported. However, in other instances the portions of food or snacks to be had may be very small.  In regards to the latter, should a crew boat experience a deviation while at sea, extending its transit time—this can quickly deplete the available food to feed all the transient visitors. For this reason, bringing additional food, such as protein bars, sandwiches, or light snacks on board, can be of great benefit.

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Figure 4: Equipment on back deck of crew boat, with rig in background

Conclusion

                Due to the critical support that crew boats provide in regards to logistics and the transfer of personnel, crew boats will continue to be a hallmark of offshore operations. For this reason, the insights shared within this article are key, as they ensure offshore workers can make the proper preparations prior to boarding, and know what to expect once they are at sea.


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