Lifting gear failures not always the equipment’s fault

All failures should be documented before tidying up All failures should be documented before tidying up

Given an unexpected crane failure, crew might assume the problem lay with the equipment – but that’s not always justified: “Operators can sometimes spend a lot of money pursuing the designers for a design fault, but we often find it’s been caused by exceeding the crane’s parameters,” said Chris Dyson of Brookes Bell.

So, it’s in everybody’s interest to know exactly where they stand.

“You have to get the right people to gather the evidence as soon as possible...that can be crane specialist engineers, metallurgists, tribologists and even naval architects if the vessel motion plays a part,” he said, and added it often needs a company like Brookes Bell “to pull the diverse strands into one coherent package.”

While this might seem an over-response, it’s often a lot simpler than the alternative. Unfortunately, he explained, if the evidence isn’t taken down promptly what could have been a fairly clear case can descend into an acrimonious tangle, costing everyone a lot more than is strictly necessary as conflicting accounts get batted back and forth.

Despite the pressure on getting an accurate picture, vessels realistically may have to carry on with their duties before being in a position to follow up and this can muddy the trail. His advice is pragmatic: “Don’t disturb the evidence and keep it intact as possible. What you can’t leave, take photos of – even ropes - before you start to tidy up.” He added: “If it’s not possible to get onboard immediately we might be able to look at well-documented evidence later.” He has some advice too on recording particular elements: “You want to look at the whole crane; for example, is the jib at the right angle? And the hydraulic system pressure gauges, take photos of them too.”

It might delay the start of operations a little, but in his opinion, it’s worth it as it can shortcut a lot of squabbling later.

However, sometimes a lifting failure has a broader implication. In one case, an A-frame LARs for an ROV failed unexpectedly after some time in service, “and of course, there were other vessels in the fleet with similar equipment onboard.... so they wanted to know if there was a risk these incidents could propagate” said Mr Dyson. Given that, “all operations had to be put on hold.”

Speed was necessary. “We looked at the design of the equipment, whether it satisfied the criteria, and then we looked at the way it was being operated... it seemed that in certain uses the forces on some elements of the design were likely to cause failure.”

This nailed the issue, and Mr Dyson added that having looked into the details, the investigation concluded with what technical remedies might mitigate matters. Not strictly in the original remit, he said, but helpful to clients and “a satisfying result.”

By Stevie Knight

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