Should Maritime Rescue Embrace Crane-Based Evacuations?


Evacuating tempest-tossed mariners from stormy seas is one of the most difficult and daring parts of life at sea. For decades, industry experts have argued over the efficacy of various different evacuation techniques, with lifeboats and helicopters generally being highly regarded over other options. These days, however, the importance and efficacy of crane-based evacuation methods are becoming more hotly discussed amongst those who wish to save more lives than ever before.

Should maritime rescue embrace crane-based evacuations? Here’s a dive into the ongoing debate about maritime rescue techniques and their various pros and cons.

There’s no one option to rule them all

It should be clearly established that there’s no universally-recognized method of evacuating mariners from stormy seas that’s widely proclaimed to be better than all others. Lifeboat and helicopter-facilitated rescues are by and large the most common, but they’re not always available nor effective; helicopters may not be able to fly in stormy conditions, for instance, and mariners could lack the logistical means of providing for them in the first place.

Offshore installation managers are thus beginning to consider crane-based evacuations, as they have a history of success and can often be relied upon in inclement conditions that would thwart other evacuation methods like lifeboats or helicopters. With BP and HSE embroiled in a feud regarding the efficacy of lifeboat training, crane-based evacuations could serve as a solution to this problem by uniting diverse factions with a new solution that meets everyone’s needs.

Philip Strong, an industry member with over two years of experience advocating for offshore safety related issues, recently put out a persuasive post arguing that the ongoing lifeboat debate is failing to consider the efficacy of crane-based evacuations. As he accurately notes, crane-based methods are like any other, and have their pros and cons, but the fact that they’re largely being ignored by many industry giants is a sad fact that desperately needs to be amended if lives are to be saved in future crises.

Helicopter training could stand to become more popular in future years, too, especially if HUET training regimes manage to take off commercially. An immense amount of industry inertia behind lifeboat methods could thwart this possibility, however, unless alternative means of rescue are widely considered by all those interested in expanding worker safety.

Different methods should be applied together

There are plenty of reasons to consider crane-based methods working with alternative measures that are unfortunately brushed under the rug. When P-36 began listing and eventually capsized, for instance, crane-based evacuation puled 138 of the 175 people onboard to safety and placed them on a nearby boat. Helicopters saved the remaining crew, demonstrating that these methods don’t have to compete with one another – indeed, they can work together to save more lives than ever before.

In the future, maritime rescue operations should focus on a hybrid approach that utilizes the most effective means available by combining their strengths to overcome their various shortcomings. By injecting crane-based evacuation measures into the mix, existing helicopter and lifeboat dependent rescue regimes can innovate in order to prevent the loss of invaluable human life.


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