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Successful HLB Reception Trial

30 August 2011

Success in a simulated Hyperbaric Lifeboat (HLB) Reception using the one of the large Oceanwide HLBs from the Helix Well Enhancer DSV, has proven to the industry that it can be done – as long as there is careful planning and are proven Emergency Response Procedures in place.

The impact of new generation of larger HLBs has given rise to concerns in handling the increase in size and this has been compounded by mating flanges mysteriously being produced in many shapes and sizes meaning that successful attachment to a Hyperbaric Reception Facility would be unlikely unless a full engineering study for specific HLBs and HRFs has been carried out.

Concerns were raised at the 2010 IMCA seminar in Dubai by the Managing Director of the NHC that Hyperbaric Lifeboat evacuation, and all aspects of the operation, had historically not been planned well enough to include recovery from the vessel or harbour, transportation, cradles, transition pieces, medical support, electrical/gas interfacing and personnel availability.

Since then a IMCA workgroup on ‘Hyperbaric Evacuation Systems’ has been established to address many these issues on a global basis.

Since the successful trial the NHC have also made several refinements to its system and procedures to improve safety and speed of operations further. The NHC would like to ensure that all HLBs are brought to the NHC for trial mating/proving as a desk-top study has shown that there appear to be too many areas for human and engineering error to be comfortable with a presumption all will fit on the day.

David Smith said "The successful trial of the HLB reception facilities for one of the new larger boats confirms the readiness of the NHC for such eventualities. It shows that the concerns within the industry are being addressed and that the North Sea at least, is a safer place to work than it ever has been. I’m glad to see that the industry is now looking to create an equal chance for survival for divers all around the globe in the event of a hyperbaric evacuation. We cannot operate dual standards where divers’ lives are involved.”