Transforming offshore transportation

TANAJIB, March 08, 2017

The Alya McCall transports its passengers and cargo to their next destination in the Tanajib area.

It’s fast, it’s cost-effective, and it has revolutionized the delivery of rig crews working on some of the world’s biggest offshore oil fields.

The new Sea Bus service introduced last year by Saudi Aramco’s Marine Department at Tanajib marks yet another major initiative undertaken as part of an ongoing marine business transformation. The new offshore transportation services follow the successful implementation of the Marine Offshore Floating Hub at Tanajib.

Launched in early 2016, the service uses dedicated Fast Crew Supply Vessels (FCSVs) and has so far exceeded all expectations. The need for the Sea Bus service resulted from the increasing numbers of offshore oil drilling rigs, which raised the demand on our Aviation department to transfer additional rig crews and critical equipment to and from rigs. Crew transfers were previously conducted by helicopter, and this new service is taking a considerable load off of Aviation while also reducing transportation costs.

Among the many benefits of the new program are the cancellation of the procurement of 14 conventional crew boats; a reduction of the load on the helicopter fleet; and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the reduced number of required vessels.

It is estimated that the program will result in a cost avoidance of about $40 million annually.

After inception of the program in February 2016, more than 45,000 passengers were safely transported from the Tanajib Marine Facility by year-end 2016, with approximately 55,000 passengers per annum expected to be transferred in subsequent years.

Emergency express cargo and critical equipment transfers are also performed on a daily basis to avoid costly rig shutdowns during well-control issues and ensure safe and reliable operations.

The service, which covers the Safaniyah, Manifa, Zuluf, and Marjan oil fields, is an ongoing initiative of the Marine Department’s Logistics Transformation Model that will eventually be rolled out to cover all offshore passenger and equipment transfers. All offshore passenger transfers are centralized at a single point of control, thereby maximizing deployment and availability of the service.

The service’s expansion will eventually include even more offshore customers, such as Northern Area Oil Operations, Terminal Operations, Northern Area Gas Operations, and also the Marine Department’s own vessels and barges. 

Young Saudi talent plays a key role

Young Saudi talent is playing a key role in the wider transformation of Marine Logistics operations, particularly the Sea Bus service:

Ibrahim H. Al Barqi

Marine Sea Bus
dispatcher/coordinator/shipper, age 21

“I have been working with Marine Logistics for over a year and since the beginning of this project.

“The dispatch group is split into two sections, the dispatching of the vessels and the new Sea Bus service. As a dispatcher, the main duties are to monitor the movement of vessels and to keep the dashboard updated.

“We contact a senior planner to inform him about any urgent passenger or cargo requests, and he will plan for it instantaneously.

“We are taking over from Aviation the responsibility for more than 50% of rig crew changes at the Manifa, Marjan, Zuluf, and Safaniyah oil fields. We have a dispatch every day at 8 a.m.” 

Ahmad Alharbi

Marine Sea Bus
dispatcher/coordinator/shipper, age 21

“After we receive the request for urgent materials, we arrange forklifts, loaders, and the transportation that we need to deliver the cargo from its area to the receiving station.

“It is a very challenging operation, and we have to verify and double-check everything to ensure that all passengers are checked in and dispatched to the relevant FCSVs. We ensure that they arrive at their destinations safe and sound. All of this involves a lot of communication between Drilling and Workover, Aviation, and the FCSVs. There is really no margin for error, so teamwork is very important in our jobs. I have gained a lot of experience.” 

Sultan M. Al Qahtani

Marine Sea Bus dispatcher, age 24

“It's now four years since I joined Marine Logistics, and I am proud that I have participated from the beginning of the Sea Bus project.

“I continuously monitor vessels’ movements in the field. I update the Marine dashboard, and I make sure that each vessel arrives and is dispatched from Tanajib in a timely manner.

“I also do passenger check-in and checkout, and I do the passenger manifest for the FCSVs. I also communicate with FCSVs using marine very high frequency radio.

“There is a lot of responsibility and a lot of teamwork. We make sure that we all work together and work for our customers to achieve our mission of providing reliable, safe, and cost-effective, integrated marine solutions.” 

The two Fast Crew Supply Vessels can reach top speeds of 38 and 42 knots, respectively, with a passenger capacity of at least 100 on each vessel.

The capabilities of FCSVs

There are currently two FCSVs that are being utilized for the Sea Bus Service — Alya McCall and Seacor Leopard.

Alya McCall 

The Alya McCall features a waterjet-propelled monohull design with a top speed of 38 knots, a capacity for 100 passengers, and 327m2 of deck space for cargo. The passenger area has large LCD screens, DVD, WiFi and stabilized satellite television that works anytime on the move.

The vessel has a ride-stabilization system to enhance passenger comfort and is fitted with a DP2 dynamic position system for accurate station keeping alongside rigs.

Additional safety features include FiFi-1 firefighting capability and standby certification (survivor craft).

Seacor Leopard 

The Seacor Leopard is a waterjet-propelled catamaran design with a top speed of 42 knots, capacity for 135 passengers, and 260m2 of deck space for cargo. It has a VIP and conference area refreshment center, large LCD screens, DVD, WiFi, and stabilized satellite television.

The vessel has high-tech equipment installed on the bridge for navigating safely at high speeds. The vessel has a ride-stabilization system to enhance passenger comfort and is fitted with a DP3 dynamic positioning system for excellent station keeping alongside rigs. Additional safety features include standby safety certification. 

Another step toward excellence

The Marine Department’s Sea Bus initiative is another step-change in the way Saudi Aramco manages offshore oil and gas operations. The latest technologies and equipment have been procured to provide safe, reliable, and efficient offshore transfer services.

The service is successfully managed by a dedicated team of young Saudi dispatchers - a crucial cog in the company’s future. The experience of managing this safety critical aspect of offshore personnel transfer will better equip these future leaders for the challenges that they may one day face. 

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