Offshore energy workers could soon be protected by unmanned rescue vessel

AN unmanned rescue vessel could soon be deployed to protect operatives working on offshore energy sites.

It comes as part of a collaboration between Edinburgh start-up Zelim and naval architect Chartwell Marine.

The firms said that traditional approaches to search and recovery are ‘unsuitable’ for many offshore facilities, with the distance of many projects from shore rendering them ‘ineffective’.

They added that helicopters can take ‘well over an hour’ to arrive, with lifeboats taking ‘several hours’ – many of which don’t operate in wind farm zones, which the firms said leads to even more challenging rescues.

Following consultations with offshore survival organisations, the new Survivor Class unmanned rescue vessel will introduce an ‘essential’ new stage in the rescue chain – with the organisations saying that men over board will be ‘rapidly’ recovered.

The vessel features ‘easy-open’ door handles, an air conditioned cabin and a helicopter pick up zone. It will be mounted onto offshore structures and deployed into the water via a 25m free fall, following men over board or helicopter drowning incidents.

Andy Page, MD of Chartwell Marine, said,“Designing the Survivor Class gave us a great opportunity to apply our offshore wind expertise to new challenges, such as free-fall water entry and casualty recovery. For example, the two waterjets will activate prior to contact with the water to stop the vessel drifting backwards into the turbine. Zelim has shown strong leadership in making offshore wind a safer industry, and we are excited to see where the partnership goes next.”

Sam Mayall, Founder, Zelim, added, “As offshore wind continues to scale up to meet the growing global demand for clean energy, ensuring the safety of seafarers and technicians is critical. That’s why we are working with Chartwell Marine and other industry partners to develop a cohesive offshore survival system, beyond the vessel itself, engaging with operators and regulators to make sure it is fit to save lives in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable.”