Lightning-struck operation back on track

A lightning bolt paralysed a vessel’s crane in the middle of a lift, threatening the success and safety of the mission. Thanks to some quick troubleshooting via satellite and onboard spare parts, a potential disaster was averted and operations resumed within a couple hours.

April 2008, Wednesday, 03:00 (CET): Gulf of Mexico

While carrying out a critical lifting operation in adverse weather, a vessel’s large MacGregor AHC crane was hit by a lightning bolt. The crane stopped for unknown reasons, leaving its load hanging in mid-air as heavy winds and rough seas continued to pummel the vessel.

3:30 A MacGregor OnWatch engineer was contacted by phone. He immediately called in back-up software and hydraulic engineers as the situation was critical. Within 30 minutes, the team began analysing log data and testing internal signals. They soon discovered that a certain signal was missing and suspected a card had been damaged. The crew checked the card and found that it had in fact been damaged by a power surge.

The vessel was carrying the critical spare parts recommended by MacGregor. A new card was quickly located and installed. Within two hours, the crane was tested and in operation once more.

Without MacGregor OnWatch and strategic spare parts, the crew would have been forced to abort the mission while an engineer was flown in from Norway, via New Orleans and a shuttle helicopter. On arrival, the engineer would first have needed to locate the error and then have spares sent from Norway. This would have taken at least four days, more likely five. The costs would have been significant along with the lost goodwill, not to mention the high risk of physical damage with a heavy load left hanging. Fortunately, the problem was solved within two hours.

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