What Is a Crew Boat?
A crew boat is a vessel specifically designed to transport offshore personnel, equipment, and supplies to and from offshore facilities like oil platforms, drilling rigs, and wind farms. These boats play a critical role in supporting offshore operations, ensuring that workers and necessary equipment are transported efficiently. Crew boats vary in size based on their intended function, operational area, and the specific demands of the offshore facilities they serve.
Here’s a general breakdown of crew boat sizes:
- Typically ranging from 20 to 50 feet in length, small crew boats are used for short distances in protected areas such as bays and inland waters. They can usually carry a few personnel along with limited equipment.
- Ranging from 50 to 150 feet in length, medium crew boats can accommodate more personnel and cargo. They are designed for slightly longer transits and can handle rougher sea conditions than their smaller counterparts.
- Large crew boats (or fast support vessels) can range from 150 to over 200 feet in length and are designed for longer distances as well as challenging open-sea conditions.
Larger crew boats can transport dozens of personnel, can deliver large volumes of freshwater, fuel, or drilling fluids, and may have advanced safety and navigational features to operate in adverse weather conditions or during nighttime.
Crew Boats: Safety Equipment & Protocols
Like any maritime vessel, a crew boat must be equipped with the appropriate safety equipment and must follow specific protocols to protect the safety of its passengers and crew. Crew boats must be seaworthy and must, like all passenger vessels, carry certificates of inspection from the U.S. Coast Guard. Before transferring offshore personnel via crew boat to a platform or wind farm, the vessel must be thoroughly inspected. It must also be the correct size for the job, depending on the waterway and the number of crew members or supplies that must be transferred.
Crew boats should be equipped with vital safety gear:
- Life-saving equipment, including life jackets for all onboard, life rafts, life buoys, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) for emergency location, and, on larger vessels, rescue boats.
- Firefighting gear, such as portable extinguishers, fixed suppression systems in high-risk zones, and fire blankets.
- Communication equipment, such as Very High Frequency (VHF) radios for standard and emergency communication, satellite phones for distant communication, and internal public address systems.
- Navigation gear, including radar, electronic chart systems, GPS for precise location tracking, Automatic Identification System (AIS) for vessel identification, and sound signals for fog.
- Physical safety measures, such as guard rails and anti-slip deck surfaces. The vessel should have a stocked first aid kit and protective gear for crew members and passengers as needed, such as hard hats and wet weather gear.
- Safety signage and emergency lights, including indicators for emergency exits, equipment, and safety guidelines.
Crew boats should also conduct routine safety drills and training so all passengers and crew know what to do in the event of a fire, man overboard, or other emergency, including how to safely evacuate the vessel.
How Do Personnel Embark & Disembark from a Crew Boat?
Maritime workers face several dangers when boarding or disembarking from vessels, including crew boats. The transportation of offshore workers to and from a crew boat can be accomplished in several different manners, depending on the size of the crew boat and weather and sea conditions.
Offshore workers may board or disembark from a crew vessel by:
- Personnel transfer or “Billy Pugh” basket
- Gangway or surfer
- Jacob’s ladder
- Accommodation ladder
Transferring personnel to or from a crew boat necessitates stringent safety precautions. The equipment used should be meticulously inspected and suited for the prevailing sea and weather conditions. Deck height differences between the vessel and platform, as well as vessel movement due to waves or tides, should be closely monitored to ensure a stable transfer point. Crew members must be thoroughly trained on transfer protocols, equipped with safety gear like life jackets and harnesses, and maintain clear communication between the boat and the platform. Adjustments in response to weather and vessel motion are crucial, and sometimes it may be safest to delay transfers until conditions stabilize.
Keeping Passengers Safe Aboard Crew Boats
To ensure the crew is kept safe, crew boats are required to provide safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts. Before the beginning of each voyage or transfer, all personnel and crew should be given a safety briefing that includes alarm signals, the location of safety equipment, escape routes, and more. On all voyages, passengers should be given sheltered, comfortable seating. On longer voyages, the crew boat should contain portable water, a galley for meals, a mess room, and sleeping areas. On all trips, regardless of length, steps should be taken to minimize the possibility of seasickness and fatigue. If luggage is being transported, it should be sheltered.
For more information and a free review of your maritime injury claim, contact Arnold & Itkin today.