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Coordinated response

LNG Industry,

The overwhelming emphasis on safety throughout the LNG industry is impressive, emphasising the creation of an environment that is serious about day-to-day safety.

At every LNG facility, ship, or LNG tug boat that the author has visited over the past 12 years, the staff and crew have all taken an active role in the safe operation and transfer of LNG; all crew members received emergency training and regular drill exercises were performed.

Basic training

Marine Firefighting Inc. training has been given to most Fi Fi 1 (Firefighting) tug boat crews all over the USA and Mexico. It is their duty to safely escort the LNG ships into berth and then stand by with their powerful firefighting capability during the LNG transfer process. These teams have been instructed on the properties of LNG and also on the safe operation of their firefighting equipment, which includes two or more very powerful water monitors.

Boat crews should not just be given these tools without proper training. The power behind these streams can be lethal if not used properly. Just one of theses nozzles is capable of throwing over 332 kg/sec.

The crew had been told that they should not act on their own except for their own safety. They were instructed that the LNG facility as well as the ship’s crew would be taking appropriate measures to mitigate the emergency. They were also informed that the use of their water monitors without coordination could injure other emergency responders and exacerbate the situation, and that water would not extinguish an LNG fire but could be used in other ways if necessary.

The coordinated approach

During Marine Firefighting Inc.’s training of the tug boat crews it became evident that while each segment of the chain did in fact have excellent training, no one was coordinating that training between the links of the LNG supply chain: each segment received its own training without regard to the training being conducted in other segments.

This presented a problem, as any response to an LNG emergency must be be carefully coordinated. Although individual training methods could be well executed, if each area acted only according to its own training, then things might not go as planned.

In an attempt to address this discrepency, the running of a full scale scenario of a fire or emergency during the off-loading or loading of an LNG ship was suggested. This would test the ability of all parties to operate as a cohesive unit. Evaluators would observe the actions of all parties without becoming actively involved. This would be the first of its kind: a full scale evaluation drill at a working LNG facility.

Evaluation drill

To obtain an objective and unbiased evaluation, three independend evaluators w oversaw the drill. Over the following months, several visits were made to the facility that was used for the evaluation. This was done in order to obtain information needed in setting up a realistic drill. Many photos were taken and procedural manuals were examined.

The date of the drill itself was unconfirmed; the exact dates of ship arrivals is often sporadic. The Marine Firefighting team was on standby until the ship was just hours from arrival. In fact, the date of the drill had to be changed several times.

Once the ship had arrived, and all the paper work and procedures involving docking and immigration formalities were handled, the team began the drill.The scenario involved a spill at the manifold area of the ship that also affected the dock area, as the Powered Emergency Release Coupler (PERC) was released from the ship. There were simulated injuries involved on both the ship and the dock and a small vapour cloud was formed. The facility control room, the ships bridge, and the firefighting tug boats standing-by were all informed of the (simulated) emergency. The team then observed and recorded the response actions that took place.

The three evaluators were stationed on the ship, dock, and tug boat. This would guarantee a successful appraisal of the drill. The evaluators were cautioned not to take an active role in the drill by making any suggestions or corrections, barring for safety issues. Their assignment was merely to observe and take photos and notes throughout the drill.

Several problems were noted, some of which could be corrected during the post drill critique. In many cases, simply bringing these problems into the light of day allowed the participants to realise that the issue existed and remedial action could have been taken immediately. Other problems required administrative changes by amending existing regulations and/or procedures. An examination and amending of emergency response protocols was required.Meanwhile, other suggestions required time and expense to remedy.

The end result of this unique exercise was the realisation of the need to drill together with all parties that would be involved in an emergency. A drill by only one segment of the supply train would only show that everyone was performing correctly according to their own guidelines.Individual drills such as these do have their value in keeping everyone up-to-date with new methods and relearning old ones. They should be conducted regularly to ensure that new employees are trained properly and that existing employees are kept at peek efficiency. There should be at least one full scale drill per year involving the facility’s emergency response personnel, the ship’s crew, and the crews of the firefighting tug boats. In this way, everyone will be able to work together in a unified and coordinated manner if an emergency should occur.


The marine transfer of LNG has had an exemplary safety record in the past. New innovations in transport and discoveries of new natural gas recovery methods may change the direction that LNG is travelling in the world. However, if the industry’s attention to safety is maintained, and all segments of the LNG supply chain work together, the industry can continue to have a safe and profitable future.

Written by Tom Guldner, adapted to house style by Ted Monroe

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