That’s the title of BSEE Safety Alert No. 308, which was issued March 19, 2014. In this case, “catastrophic” refers to the crane, which bent and broke after its dynamic load limit was exceeded; no one was killed or injured. An investigation found that the load chart was incorrect and that the crane operator had used the static load limits as his reference instead of the dynamic load limits, which are lower, as required by the contractor’s standard operating procedures. The bore holes for the boom’s pin connections were also worn out, causing slack and improper load distribution. And there was notable corrosion.

In the case of “Boom Hoist Wire Rope Failure Results in Fatality” (No. 304, Feb.1, 2013), one man did die. He was an offshore rigger handling a tag line to help stabilize the load, which was a rental generator being lifted onto a vessel. The crane’s boom hoist wire rope parted, the boom collapsed and broke in two places, an 850-lb. bridle/sheave connected to the broken wire rope hit the broken boom on the way down, ricocheted off and hit the guy handling the left tag line. The investigation concluded that the broken wire rope had been “weakened by advanced corrosion.” The cable also lacked proper lubrication, and the annual inspection six months prior had not included a comprehensive examination of the boom hoist wire rope.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement regularly issues safety alerts in the wake of offshore accidents like these in the Gulf oil patch. The subjects are often grim: “Heater Explodes – Man Injured,” “Fire - Men Burned,” and “Operator Electrocuted Trying to Charge a Battery.”

BSEE’s most recent safety alert, No. 315, was issued this week in conjunction with the Coast Guard. It’s titled: “Dynamic Positioning System Failures on Offshore Supply Vessels Engaged in Oil and Gas Operations in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.” This alert was prompted by a DP-1 OSV that lost position while attached to a wellhead, which severed the wellhead tree “causing a lubricant release on the platform deck and to the environment.” Just before losing position, the OSV had multiple DP system alarms and failures, including loss of bowthruster and engine control. “No attempt was made to identify or correct the causes of these failures and the operations continued.” Until they didn’t and the “Christmas tree” was sheared from the well. There was no oil spill, or as BSEE put it: “There was an absence of hydrocarbon flow from the well.”

The Coast Guard and BSEE put up these alerts to inform the industry about the circumstances surrounding an accident or near miss and to provide recommendations to help prevent similar accidents. Most seem to be rig related, but vessel operations are also included.

The dozens of alerts are testimony to all of the things that can go wrong out there, costing money, time and sometimes lives. They’re worth paying attention to. 

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).