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The L/B Robert listing to port as seen on November 21, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

The L/B Robert listing to port as seen on November 21, 2022. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Gulf of Mexico Liftboat Accident Underscores Weather-Related Risks

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 5619
January 10, 2024

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued its report into the listing of an elevated liftboat caused by storm with gale-force winds and high waves in the Gulf of Mexico back in November 2022.

The incident involved the L/B Robert, which was stationed alongside an oil platform about 80 miles southeast of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The crew had evacuated the liftboat two days prior to the incident due to forecasted adverse weather conditions, leaving the vessel unattended and elevated out of the water. Fortunately, no injuries or pollution were reported, but the estimated damage to the vessel and cargo amounted to $6.9 million.

The L/B Robert, a three-legged lifeboat owned by Falcon Global Robert and operated by SEACOR Marine, faced challenging weather conditions that exceeded its operational limits and the decision was made to evacuate the rig personnel and liftboat crewmembers to mitigate the risks.

According to the NTSB, during the evacuation, the crew followed guidance from shoreside management personnel and left an air gap of approximately 25 feet above the water’s surface, providing maximum resistance against overturning caused by the combined forces of wind and waves. However, subsequent analysis revealed that the vessel likely encountered waves as high as 30 feet, surpassing both the air gap and the initial forecasts.

The investigation conducted by the NTSB found that the wind and waves transferred significant forces down the vessel’s legs, resulting in the deterioration of the seabed foundation around them. Ultimately, it is believed that the deteriorated foundation under the port leg gave way, causing the vessel to tilt to port and submerge its deck edge.

This incident draws attention to the potential risks faced by liftboats operating in adverse weather conditions and serves as a reminder of the importance of accurate weather forecasts and adherence to operational limits to ensure the safety of vessel crews.

SEACOR Marine also operated the SEACOR Power which capsized in 2021 off the coast of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, while underway in a severe thunderstorm, claiming the lives of 13 people. As a result of that accident, the NTSB issued three safety recommendations to the company focussing on timely and accurate weather forecasts, adherence to operational limits, and revisions to operation manuals to enhance safety protocols during severe weather conditions.

By March 2023, SEACOR Marine had implemented all three safety recommendations.

The NTSB’s report into the L/B Robert listing can be found here.

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