Wednesday 8th July 2020
“If you’d told me at the start of 2020 that we’d be reconfiguring our vessel layouts in March because of COVID-19, I’d have thought you were joking.”
Lea Hurst, Marine Manager at CWind, had seen the news reports showing the impact of COVID-19 in other parts of the world but, like many of us, he had no idea how quickly the pandemic would impact his everyday working life.
“Overnight we introduced new deep cleaning and hand washing procedures on board all of our crew transfer vessels,” said Lea. “We’ve always had extremely high standards of health, safety and crew welfare on board our vessels, so implementing these new measures didn’t require a major change of mindset for us. But from a practical point of view, it meant we had to think about reconfiguring seating patterns and providing additional personal protective equipment to ensure our crew members and our clients’ technicians could socially distance while transiting to and from wind farms.”
Alcohol-based hand sanitiser was distributed to all 21 CWind vessels, allowing crew to practise government recommended hand washing procedures when embarking and disembarking. Crew members devised a schedule for deep cleaning of their vessels at the end of each day of operation, a safety measure that has now been adopted as an important part of their everyday working routine.
Although these new measures extended existing disembarkation procedures, the CWind crew and fleet teams were flexible enough to adapt their approach and carry out the required safety actions without affecting their productivity or morale.
Reconfiguring vessel layouts to meet government guidelines
Vessel reconfiguration required more planning. Maintaining the recommended distances between crew members during transit, based on vessel size, meant rethinking the seating arrangements on board and then booking the vessels a timeslot at the yard so that the necessary work could be carried out.
With much of the fleet busy on client projects, this presented a logistical challenge for the Fleet Operations department to ensure that we maintained important support for our customers.
“We prioritised certain vessels for the reconfiguration work based on their proposed charter dates and client requirements. CWind Voyager was one of the first vessels that required reconfiguration, so we worked closely with the client to meet their requirements for an upcoming project in Germany,” said Lea.
As one of four new crew transfer vessels added to the CWind fleet following a recent agreement with Dalby Offshore, CWind Voyager represents the first of a new breed of CWind vessel configured to work in a world shaped by COVID-19 safety measures.
“We knew from day one that our services would be vital to the country’s power infrastructure, as technicians are classed as keyworkers and continued working throughout lockdown. The new social distancing measures prompted us to rethink our vessel configuration and seating plans. While it has certainly been a challenge, knowing that we’re prepared for future changes is definitely a positive to take from the experience.”
Protecting the physical and mental health of our crew members
Alongside the new vessel layouts and seating arrangements, Lea and his team also introduced new health screening and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policies on board. Pre-boarding checks were implemented for anyone boarding a vessel, including temperature testing (using medical-grade equipment) and symptoms tracking. All crew members were provided with face masks, visors and Virustatic snoods to enable them to carry out their everyday working tasks in the safest way possible.
“Giving crew members confidence and peace of mind during this period has been really important,” said Lea. “The new hazards our team are having to consider, alongside the usual ones they have to be aware of in the course of their job, has brought added stress to the role. We’ve been doing everything we can do help manage this by providing PPE.”
Global Marine Group’s weekly wellbeing email is another useful tool that’s been helping crew members manage their stress levels during lockdown. Containing information and resources on meditation, diet and exercise and employee rewards and assistance programmes, it has provided actionable tasks and insights to help employees focus on their mental health alongside their physical health.
Offering flexible charter agreements to help clients adapt
As other industries start adapting to their ‘new normal’ over the coming weeks, the offshore wind industry continues to operate as it has done since UK lockdown was introduced in March. As renewable energy suppliers continue to work towards existing deadlines and targets, reconfiguring an entire fleet of vessels is simply not realistic from a cost or timings perspective.
In order to help clients work within new onboard social distancing measures, the CWind vessels team was able to offer flexible charter terms at short notice, providing three additional vessels to a client (as well as necessary onboard training) to help transport technicians to and from two key UK offshore wind farms. This kind of adaptability helped the client maintain key offshore inspection and maintenance schedules during an exceptionally busy period.
The CWind vessels team were even able to help some clients who were struggling to get access to face masks because of a shortage created by the unprecedented surge in demand.
“It has been a challenging time for everyone, with shortages of all PPE and safety equipment, so we were happy to help clients with their own PPE if they needed it,” said Lea.
Benefiting from new safety measures introduced throughout Global Marine Group
As part of the Global Marine Group, the CWind vessels team benefited from proactive new safety measures introduced across the group. When lockdown was introduced in the UK, Global Marine Group quickly established a COVID-19 working committee to meet daily and discuss how the developing pandemic would affect CWind vessel crew and passengers.
It was agreed from the outset that if any individuals on board a CWind vessel experienced symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19, they would report it to the vessel Master immediately. The vessel Master would then be empowered to take whatever action he or she felt was necessary to keep all crew members safe and well. Potentially Infectious Persons (PIP) procedures, such as this one, give everyone on board some reassurance that the appropriate action will be taken if they or any of their colleagues feel unwell during their working day.
Other group-level changes included:
Continuing to improve the efficiency of our CTV operations
Although COVID-19 created many new challenges for the CWind vessels team, it reinforced the importance of having robust safety measures in place and the flexibility to react to different situations at short notice.
Despite the recent relaxing of lockdown and social distancing rules, vessel reconfigurations are still ongoing for the CWind team. Two CWind vessels, Spirit and Sword, recently underwent some internal changes to allow for the fitting of protective screens around all passengers.
“Our team has worked tirelessly over the past few months, going above and beyond to put in place the new measures that have protected our crew members, our business and the wider industry against the threat of the pandemic. I’m really proud to have worked with such a dedicated, adaptable team during such a challenging time.” said Lea.