Falkland islands: Offshore response

The Field

Although offshore oil exploration activity around the Falkland Islands has slowed in the past 12 months, due to the significant drop in oil price, a number of our members are looking into the prospect of tendering for work in the region.

Due to the relative geographical isolation and the ongoing political situation, it is essential that those seeking to operate in the area have a comprehensive casualty response plan, which should be made available to the club. This is particularly important at this time as the current reduction in exploration activities means there has been a fall in the number of AHTS vessels which, with their high-capacity winches and tow wires, make them ideally suited for salvage and towage duties.

Contractors considering operating in the Falkland Islands may wish to bear in mind the following practical advice:

  • Search and Rescue (SAR) and support helicopter services were previously provided by a commercial operator with an operational facility onshore. There were also times when the local military also became involved in SAR. Recently, however, a ten-year contract has been agreed with AAR Airlift, British International Helicopters and Air Rescue Systems to provide a combined SAR and Support Helicopter Service to the Falkland Islands and surrounding maritime area.
  • The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the Falkland Islands operates a patrol vessel with very limited towing capability, but has a helicopter, fast rescue craft and command and control capability for coordinating operations and acting as local on-scene commander.
  • Two shallow-draft harbour tugs are also operated by the MoD. Although primarily harbour support tugs, they were successfully utilised in the recent Le Boreal incident.
  • The Falkland Islands Government has a fisheries protection vessel that can, if necessary, be used in a support role.
  • Commercial offshore support vessels, including AHTSs, operate in the region and may be able to assist in emergency response. This should be discussed with the operator with whom you will be contracting.
  • In the event of an emergency in international waters, a vessel should issue a distress call using an international distress frequency channel. As international conventions place certain obligations on party states, primacy of response will quickly be agreed by the relevant emergency response organisations.

 

Skuld Offshore thanks the following parties for their assistance with this article: Mr Andrew Almond-Bell, Falkland Islands Government Director of Emergency Services & Island Security and Captain Guy Webster, Zaklir Company SA