Staying safe at sea during a pandemic
The novel coronavirus presents unique challenges for crews servicing offshore wind turbines
Pre-crisis, the life of an offshore Siemens Gamesa service technician was already far from simple. Whether braving the bracing ocean air and choppy waves to regularly commute from a home on land to work at sea via a transfer boat, or reaching the wind farms instead while deployed for weeks at a time on a large service operations vessel, logistical complexity and a certain amount of risk is part of the job. Variable weather conditions demand your attention, as do the everyday trials of working at heights. Add a highly contagious and potentially deadly pathogen to the equation, and your professional challenge of keeping the lights for the rest of the world takes on an entirely new dimension.
One example: the crew transfer vessels that taxi technicians to the offshore farms. Prior to boarding the boats, every technician must take their temperature at the onshore office before suiting up in the changing room, which now happens according to staggered start times in order to reduce crowding. The crews keep at least two meters apart when making their way to the vessels, and, to allow for proper social distancing while onboard, the boats are less than half full when they leave the shore. The vessel crews themselves sport proper personal protective gear (face masks, gloves, sealed goggles) as well.
“These changes are a bit out of the norm for our technicians, but our teams tell us that they’re grateful for the extra protocols that have been put in place that allow them to stay safe and continue working,” says Dennis.
Recreating the “bubble” of a virus-free SOV for sites utilizing crew transport vessels is another intriguing idea that has been suggested. Due to the time required to obtain test results (a half-day to a full day), it’s impractical to test crews who travel back and forth between work and home every day. Moreover, once they leave work, they are exposed to countless other opportunities for infection, either on the bus ride home or while spending time with their families. Might it be possible to create a Covid-free compound near the offshore wind farm, where service technicians check in for longer cycles of a week or two, similar to an SOV? If so, this could be another innovation that survives the immediate public health crisis, due to the many benefits it offers to our crews.
“Innovations like these will ultimately help us to better meet the needs of our customers during this critical time and beyond,” remarks Dennis. “We’ll continue to do whatever it takes to keep the energy flowing and to ensure the safety of our workforce,” he says.