5/20/2015: 2015 Offshore Technology Conference – Future challenges and opportunities

Maritime Commons attended the 2015 Offshore Technology Conference to provide you with a wrap-up of what was covered by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, or BSEE.

The assistant commandant for U.S. Coast Guard prevention policy, Rear Adm. Paul Thomas, and BSEE director, Brian Salerno, shared the stage on a speaking panel to provide their regulatory stance and joint agency initiatives for offshore safety. The panel was moderated by Charlie Williams, executive director for the Center for Offshore Safety– an industry sponsored organization focused exclusively on offshore safety on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf

For those of you who were unable to attend, Maritime Commons is providing a condensed version of Thomas and Salerno’s remarks in a six-part series. These remarks are not ‘as delivered’ but provide a condensed version of the panel highlights in the ‘panel-conversational’ style.

Future challenges and opportunities

Rear Adm. Paul Thomas:

Let me give you some data points to set in context what I see as the gaps… 100 percent is the increase in reportable marine casualties from offshore supply vessels over the last 4 years. That is not a good trend.

We looked at our inspection data and determined how many of the items, on offshore supply vessels, that we look at on an inspection would have triggered what we call a port state control detention had they been on a foreign flagged vessel. What we found was that the U.S. flagged vessels would have a detention rate that would put them on a black list in any nation in the world, including here in the U.S., and that’s also not a good trend.

Many of these are vessels that have safety management systems. We’ve been seeing an alarming increase of failures in safety management systems on vessels, supervised by third parties, and long term problems with major lifesaving and firefighting systems. This is not necessarily just on OSVs but on other ships as well.

That’s not a good trend either; add to that the recent rash of problems with dynamic positioning systems that are the result of those systems not being adequately addressed in SMS. These are complex systems. You need to understand the limits, have the processes in place to ensure you know if you reach those limits and identify what the dynamic positioning operator should be doing in those circumstances.

These data points, lead me to say we are not yet where we need to be in terms of implementation of safety management systems. There are operators that are required to have safety management systems but service providers that do not share this requirement. That needs to be the focus of leadership.

Brian Salerno:

There are those with safety management systems that are very well thought out, leading edge, and I feel that I can learn a lot more from them than they can from me. It is very impressive when you can see it manifest itself in very practical terms among the workers on deck. They are taking the time before conducting an operation to consider:

• What they’re going to do
• What could go wrong
• What would they do if it goes wrong
• Consider what they need to manage if something goes wrong

While there is progress, and there are clear leaders within the industry, there are also many others where we don’t see evidence of their plans or safety management systems penetrating below the corporate level or the senior management level. You can still find people not following even basic safety procedures. Naturally, when we conduct investigations after a fatality or injury, we’re looking not only at the technical and physical aspects of the incident, but also through the lens of SEMS. Not surprisingly, when bad things happen, a significant contributing factor is often the absence of a meaningful safety culture. And there are some recurring themes, most notable are disconnects between operators and contractors. People are not always communicating with each other well. This even extends to language barriers non-native workers are part of a work process. It would seem obvious that such circumstances should be addressed. Ultimately, it comes down to asking: what do people need to know to operate safely? And, do they have the means to act?’

I think as we go forward in our interactions with the Center for Offshore Safety, we’re very much interested in determining how we normalize the operator – contractor interaction. The practical challenge is that there are so many contractors relative to the number of operators, and every contractor works for more than one operator…how can we get this to work as contractors shift from operator to operator?

Salerno and Thomas want to continue the question. You can send your questions to them on Twitter using the #BSEEUSCG or write them here, on Maritime Commons.

In addition to this post, be sure to read the other posts from the 2015 Offshore Technology Conference.

Part 1: Progress since Deepwater Horizon
Part 2: Subsea containment issues
Part 3: Future challenges and opportunities
Part 4: Complexity of operations and cyber
Part 5: Risk-based operations
Part 6: Continuing the offshore safety discussion

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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