Page last updated at 00:32 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Hi-tech boat 'crucial' in rescue

ARRC
The North Sea rescue was the first "real life" scenario the vessel faced

A state-of-the-art rescue boat which played a crucial role in pulling 15 oil workers to safety in the North Sea was on its first "real life" mission.

Those involved in designing the autonomous rescue and recovery craft (ARRC) have hailed it a huge success.

The vessel was commissioned by BP as part of a programme of measures aimed at improving safety in the North Sea.

It picked up 15 of the 18 people who ended up in the water after a Super Puma came down on Wednesday evening.

The designers now hope other offshore oil companies and coastguard rescue teams will consider using the ARRCs.

Dr Matthew Mills, an occupational physician specialising in hostile environments, was part of the team which developed the rescue craft.

He told the BBC Scotland news website: "It was very exciting for us to see the boat deployed 'for real' for the first time, and see it successfully rescue multiple people from the water.

This is the first time that the search and rescue helicopter and ARRC have been used together to assist in recovery of people from the water following a helicopter ditching
BP Spokeswoman
"A host of factors contributed to the success of the rescue operation on Wednesday night but the ARRC played an very important role."

The rescue craft has a maximum speed of 35 knots, fly-by-wire technology on the bridge, a helicopter winching zone, a collapsible side at the back to pull survivors aboard and two 1100 hp jets to power it.

The boats form part of Project Jigsaw, a 135m programme of investment by BP aimed at creating an improved regional search, rescue and recovery network in the North Sea.

Sea tests

A spokeswoman for the oil company said: "This is the first time that the search and rescue helicopter and ARRC have been used together to assist in recovery of people from the water following a helicopter ditching.

"We believe the combination of both marine and aviation provides improved capability for offshore search, rescue and recovery over a wider range of weather and sea state conditions."

Dr Mills was involved in a four-year effort to develop the ARRC and carried out tests on the medical facilities on board.

Survivors arriving back at port
The ARRC picked up 15 survivors who were then brought to Aberdeen

He said: "I know this boat very well. I was involved in testing the medical suite.

"It has an advanced sick bay with capacity for two seriously injured casualties and about 20 other survivors.

"We tested it using simulation technology then spent three weeks in the English Channel testing it in various sea conditions".

He added: "It was great to see it work so well and really deliver in locating the people and getting them very quickly out of the water.

Dr Mills said other offshore platform operators may now show an interest in the state-of-the art boats.

He said: "This search and rescue system is new and very different. I think a lot of people will be looking at how it works.

"Its performance on Wednesday will be eagerly reviewed by the offshore industry."



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SEE ALSO
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All rescued as helicopter ditches
18 Feb 09 |  North East/N Isles
Offshore safety review announced
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08 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles

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