Operators of offshore platforms, drilling rigs and other fixed assets use AIS, radar and web-based risk solutions for monitoring potentially hazardous vessels
Vessels can represent one of the greatest operational risks to offshore drilling rigs and other fixed offshore assets, whether they are operating near these assets or need to be kept away. Collisions between vessels and offshore assets, such as floating production systems, can be highly damaging and costly.
Many operators meet this challenge by using a traditional combination of vessel automatic identification system (AIS) data, radar and other data inputs to detect, assess, and mitigate vessel risks to their assets. Others are converting to a more collaborative, web-based system that facilitates centralised risk monitoring and provides analytical reporting tools and the ability to access historical data.
There are three primary reasons a vessel not operating near an asset might approach, risking a collision, said Oceaneering director of maritime solutions and global data solutions, Jason Tieman. These include a lack of situational awareness because of an inadequate watch team, loss of the vessel’s propulsion or steering, or malicious intent such as attacking the asset to harm the crew or hold them hostage.
“Mitigating these risks requires early detection,” he explained. “Operators often set a radar guard ring to alert them when vessels arrive within a specified distance from the asset, but this can lead to many false radar alarms that desensitise watch teams.”
Excessive alarms quickly lose their effectiveness, which often leads to them being ignored or disabled. Therefore, approaching vessels could be missed until it is too late. Also, radar guard rings do not consider the speed of the approaching vessel. “This leads to rings that are either too small to enable timely alerts for fast-approaching vessels, or so large that they overwhelm watch-standers with false alarms because they encompass so much vessel traffic,” said Mr Tieman.
Mitigation strategies should be developed based on a site-specific assessment of each asset’s risk profile, including factors such as:
- Regional security concerns
- Weather patterns
- Sea conditions
- Local shipping lanes and ship traffic
- Characteristics of vessels that support the asset and nearby rigs
Operators should have a clearly defined set of risk assessment and mitigation procedures and properly trained staff for validating risks and initiating mitigating actions.
There are multiple variables to consider including wind, waves, visibility, currents, ice and other environmental factors that can compound and escalate threats posed by vessels. Therefore, use of a monitoring and intelligent risk management platform should be considered.
The monitoring platform combines all data sources into a shared display and can issue customised threat alerts, said Mr Tieman. “An intelligent monitoring solution can be a huge success factor if it can ingest all required data and be configured to only issue alerts based on parameters that have been created for each asset’s unique risk profiles,” he explained.
Intelligent monitoring tools ingest data from multiple assets and monitor from a centralised shore-side location. “With this approach, each asset shares the same combined view and benefits from the more complete assessment of the surrounding waters,” Mr Tieman commented. “Operators that have multiple assets operating in the same region can take advantage of all data sensors on the network.” They can have redundancy if a radar or other sensor fails, covering any potential gaps in data.
“Operators that have multiple assets operating in the same region can take advantage of all data sensors on the network”
There should be a map of key hardware systems, data feeds, network connections, and servers supporting the monitoring solution and a network dashboard that can monitor each key failure point and alert watchkeepers when the system could be ineffective for detecting specific threats.
If local vessel monitoring is not an option, then collaborative monitoring tools enable a dedicated, centrally-located team to monitor a large number of assets globally. These teams can be trained to understand each asset’s specific risk profile and procedures, and master the optimal use of the monitoring system, said Mr Tieman. He added: “This focused team can quickly interpret vessel movements and triggered alarms to determine whether there is an actual risk and how to respond.”
Risk management programs should also provide access to data about historical vessel movements and triggered alerts. The program should be measured using key performance indicators to allow for continual adjustment to the mitigation process. “A benefit of this approach is that operators can target specific fleets or individual vessels,” said Mr Tieman.
Each asset operator should audit how they monitor, assess, mitigate and measure the risk of vessels impacting their facilities. They should assess whether they have the necessary data about risks threatening their assets and the ability to analyse and act on this data. “Without a way to accurately evaluate their strategy and capabilities, they will lack visibility into how often incidents or close calls went undocumented or were not even noticed,” said Mr Tieman.
He concluded: “Operators must thoroughly understand the risk profile for each of their assets, identify all vulnerability gaps including those that may previously have been overlooked. They should develop a solution that not only eliminates those gaps but also provides all the additional insight required to simultaneously maximise operational continuity and efficiency.”