The Bourbon Liberty 207 has just completed an anchor handling support to pipe laying operation off Côte d’Ivoire. 76 days of operations conducted at a brisk pace, requiring an experienced, efficient crew. Captain François Jezequel looks back on this demanding contract, a challenge for both for men and equipment.
On January 11, 2015, teams from BOURBON and Micoperi gathered aboard the barge Crawler for a preparatory meeting. The objective: to make sure that each participant was informed of the various stages of the operation and that a risk assessment was made. This mission is far from being a trivial operation. It requires strict compliance with procedures and a preliminary analysis of each phase of the job, in order to ensure complete safety. Studying plans, determining safety zones, pennant lengths, water depth, equipment certification and the presence of replacement parts on board, etc. Nothing is left to chance.
Non-stop anchor handling
During this operation, an anchor handling tug supply vessel (AHTS) continuously accompanies a barge specialized in the laying of pipelines on the sea floor, within a set corridor.
The role of the AHTS vessel is to anchor and de-anchor the barge 24/7, without interruption, in order to enable it to move. The pipes are welded on the barge and gradually lowered. This is an ongoing movement that must not be interrupted, and the reliability of the support vessel is crucial to the success of the operation. "It's a demanding operation that requires an experienced crew, both on the deck and on the bridge," said Francois Jezequel, captain of the Bourbon Liberty 207. "You have to have good knowledge of working with anchors or be supervised by a training officer for a mission of this type."
"It's a demanding operation that requires an experienced crew, both on the deck and on the bridge"Francois Jezequelcaptain of the Bourbon Liberty 207
A human effort at every moment
On January 16, the pipe laying operation began. Everyone was at his post, fully aware that this long process would require a lot of concentration and effort. Critical equipment - winches, towing pins and shark jaws - were tested and found to be 100% operational. A consultant bosun, François Stephan was on board to supervise and to share his experience with the two bridge teams who would work in shifts, each consisting of a bosun and two seamen.
For 76 days, the Bourbon Liberty handled the 14-ton anchors almost 900 times. The vessel became an extension of the barge, as it laid its its 50.7 km of pipe on the sea floor. The crews of the AHTS and the barge Crawler stayed in constant contact.
"Despite the difficulty of the operation, which placed a heavy strain on the crew and the vessel, no incidents or injuries occurred," says captain Jezequel happily. "We also towed the barge 3 times to change its working area and participated in the placement of three "Tie-in Spools," connecting elements between the pipeline and the platform. I would like to add that this operation was conducted by the Bourbon Liberty alone,* while it is not uncommon for this type of mission to be performed by two vessels. That's an additional source of satisfaction..."
*A second supply vessel worked in shallow water as a backup for about ten days.