Golden rules for safe crane transfers

Reflex Marine

October 18, 2013

Reflex Marine and partners Seacor Marine and Sparrows Offshore joined together to create a set of ‘golden rules’ for safe crane transfer practices offshore. “These rules reflect what’s been learned from millions of transfers in varied conditions around the globe, with a focus on those few that go wrong,” the company said on its website ( “Crane transfer may seem a simple operation, but a wide range of variables is involved, and considering them carefully will help you to achieve a safe transfer every time.” The company hopes the rules will eventually become a part of established industry best practices.

Understand your risks

Reflex Marine says it is necessary to perform a risk assessment to ensure you understand site-specific risks. Consider the vessels, cranes, transfer equipment, weather, and sea-state and crews involved. Identify the key risk drivers. Extra scrutiny is required for personnel lifting.

Be familiar with your conditions

Check prevailing weather and sea conditions, including tides and currents. Discuss vessel positioning and station-keeping with the vessel master and crane operator (identifying specific risks or concerns). Understand the limits of your equipment.

Know your vessels

The vessel is major consideration with attention paid to station-keeping and stability. A large clear landing area free from adjacent obstacles will reduce risks. Crew competence and familiarity with the installation and communications (particularly radio and hand signals) are also key factors.

Know your cranes

Specifically, Reflex Marine says, to know the limitations of your cranes. Cranes should be well maintained and all appropriate certification in place. The crane location is also important, as is the lift height, the line of sight to the vessel and the choice of slow or fast line. Understand the function of the crane’s emergency lowering systems and ensure they can be operated in the event of a prime mover failure.

Know your transfer device

With a wide range of carriers on the market, Reflex Marine says to select the best one suitable for your operating envelope and risk levels.

Be familiar with your crews

Training and competence of vessel and installation crews should be addressed by company procedures. Crane operators and vessel masters have particularly important roles to play. Ensure proper PPE (e.g. hard hats, safety glasses, safety footwear, and life vests) are worn by all passengers.

Plan your lift

Reflex Marine says dangerous collisions can happen; pay attention to conditions such as the transfer device being misaligned with the crane hook as harsh weather can make the problem worse. Where possible, perform lifts over water and retain a good line of sight of the carrier. Note, good communication (including radios and hand signals), between the vessel and crane operator, is essential.

If in doubt, stop

If there are still doubts about safety after trial transfers without passengers, suspend operations.

Recognize complex operations

Make sure to recognize and manage risks, as many factors can complicate transfer operations. Common factors include lifts from moving structures (e.g. mono-hull vessels and floating platforms), extreme weather, poorly specified vessels, inexperienced crews and poor installation layout. Where appropriate, seek expert advice.

Emergency planning

Crane transfers can also be used for managing emergencies, such as medical evacuations, Reflex Marine says. Integrate crane transfers into your emergency planning and perform drills to confirm your capabilities. OE