Brad McNeill
Frontera Offshore
Expert Contributor

Safety Planning Critical to On Schedule, Under Budget Projects

By Brad McNeill | Fri, 12/18/2020 - 13:00

Safety planning has become the “critical path” to keeping projects on schedule and under budget. 
Never before has vessel crew and project technician logistics been so critical as in this age of COVID-19.  The potential impact of entire vessel and equipment spreads on standby due to an infection to a team member is an impact that requires extraordinary efforts and focus to mitigate. Our mission is to meet our clients’ demand for the highest “standard of care” in terms of safety planning.

Consider you are mobilizing your project team and midway through the in-country quarantine period, your Offshore Project Manager tests positive for COVID and the vessel is due to be mobilize three days later to go offshore.  This key position offshore is no longer able to mobilize with the vessel and you are unable to replace that position without repeating the same 14-day isolation protocol. Of course, the primary concern is the health of your OPM, and the protocols for such an event are activated, and the medical attention is given. However, what is unavoidable is that vessel, equipment and remaining personnel will have to proceed as scheduled, as these commitments can’t be delayed. The result is that you have an operation, generating tens of thousands of dollars per day in cost, ready to go offshore and perform the contracted work scope without the most senior project position. This is a worst-case scenario for last-minute change of project positions and not only a concern to the contractor, but also for the client. The question is, what can be done to mitigate?

At Frontera, we determined that there are basically three key areas to  on which to focus.
A detailed journey management plan is the first key. Testing or evaluation at point of origin is the first step, followed by using all available tools for mitigating potential infection during the journey, and then strict isolation protocols after arrival. It is important that there is emphasis on each individual doing whatever they each can do to keep themselves safe, and adhering strictly to the requirement of the safety plan.

When Frontera puts together a project team, careful consideration is given to the overlapping skill sets that will be onboard. The idea is that each individual team member will have a shadow competency or skill from another teammate. If the lead surveyor is unable to perform, the second surveyor should have the ability to fill those shoes to a level of competency that allows work to continue. Careful evaluation of experience is key, and multidisciplined project personnel are an additional insurance policy.  

Much like an aircraft has a co-pilot aboard as a full contingency measure to counter the situation where the captain is incapacitated, an OPM can also have this shadow position. Mobilize duplicate personnel for the key positions onboard and have the backup team mobilize the vessel while the first team remains in quarantine. The mobilization is closely, albeit remotely, monitored by the first team and the second team takes maximum allowable precautions while carrying out vessel mobilization activities, in such a way that, ideally, both team members are safe to go offshore, even if only one will do so. 

Even beyond the pandemic, careful safety planning is key not only to protecting all the stakeholders, but to delivery of services on time and on budget. For too long, these aspects have been seen as additional burdens and costs but the opposite is true. The potential negative consequences should be unacceptable to both contractor and clients. 

Photo by:   Brad McNeill