100th exercise in support of Bond Offshore Helicopters' Search-&-Rescue operations

Crews of Lerwick Harbour pilot boats and Bond Offshore Helicopters’ aircraft are working together to ensure the high level of skill required in Bond’s search-&-rescue operations in Scottish waters.

The combination has now reached its 100th exercise since the pilot boats began supporting Bond’s training programme in early 2011.

Bond’s offshore search and rescue operation comprises two dedicated, specially-modified Super Puma AS332L Mark II helicopters made available under a long-term contract with BP to provide 24-hour airborne search-&-rescue and medical evacuation for its workforce in a unique UK North Sea system known as Jigsaw. One of the high-specification, twin-engine
aircraft is based at Sumburgh Airport, Shetland, the other on the Miller platform, in the central North Sea.

Malcolm Paine, Managing Director of Bond Offshore Helicopters, said: “We recognise the vital contribution these exercises make in developing and maintaining the skills and experience our aircrews need for their range of operations. The arrangement with Lerwick Port Authority underpins this by enabling us to exercise on a regular and scheduled basis, enhancing the safety of the offshore workforce – and of others at sea.”

Exercises take place once or twice a week, day and night, with the location – depending on weather – to the north or south of the harbour and often outside port limits. They involve either the Authority’s pilot boat/tug Knab or Kebister, each with a crew of three who are responsible for deploying a liferaft and dummies, depending on the scenario.

Scenarios practiced regularly with the dummies include winching a stretcher case from the deck of the pilot boat; winching from a multi-seat liferaft, and recovery from the sea.

Lerwick Port Authority’s operational contact with Bond, Deputy Harbour Master, Captain Alexander Simpson, said: “By providing an adaptable resource available to meet Bond’s requirements, we are contributing to their high standards and to safety at sea. Our own crews also benefit from the experience of deploying and retrieving the liferaft, rescues
at sea and communications between the boat and helicopter, should there ever be a need to do so in real life.”

With increasingly large vessels using the deep-water harbour, the pilot boat crews undertook more than 1,200 ship movements last year, a rise of 15.5% on 2010.

Jigsaw operations were launched in March 2006 and there have been around 60 winchings to date, as well as medevacs and downmannings. With the 300th mission flown in April this year, in addition to BP, these have included flights for 32 other offshore operators plus a number of vessel operators in the UK and Norwegian sectors, the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination Centre, various others, and patient transfers for the Scottish Ambulance Service in Shetland.

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