The interactions between the fishing industry and the oil and gas industry on the UKCS can be hazardous to both fishing operations and sub-sea equipment if the location of oil and gas related infrastructure is not known. Incidents resulting from this such as the snagging of nets on subsea equipment can cause damage to subsea equipment and may result in environmental pollution as well as being a danger to the fishing vessel and its crew. The tragic loss of the fishing vessel FV Westhaven and crew in 1997, when its fishing gear caught on an unsupported pipeline span, led to the development of a safety device known as FishSAFE.
The original FishSAFE unit is increasingly dysfunctional and FLTCS have replaced the device with an enhanced unit.
More than 240 new FishSAFE units have been supplied. The price of a unit has been reduced thanks to significant grants made by the Scottish Ministers and the European Fisheries Fund.
FishSAFE is a PC-based safety device that provides the skipper of a fishing vessel with detailed information about subsea obstructions, and provides a timely warning of any nearby oil and gas related infrastructure that may pose a snagging hazard and potentially result in the damage or loss of the fishing gear or even the vessel.
The device is installed in the wheel-house to give an audible alarm accompanied by flashing lights if there may be a risk to the vessel. In addition FishSAFE clearly shows the position relative to all surface and subsea structures up to 6 miles from the vessel.
It is essentially a 'hands-free' safety system designed to reduce the fishing risks, which carries out the following 4 functions:
- Takes in position from vessels existing (differential) GPS receiver
- Uses this to identify any subsea obstacles in the immediate area from an internal database of the entire UK Continental Shelf
- Plots all obstructions within a 6-mile range onscreen, with the vessel in the middle
- Searches this subset of the database for any obstructions that fall within a pre-defined 'alarm template' and triggers various alarms for these features dependant on their position relative to the Vessel's course, and hence their potential risk
The detail within the database, plus the capability to zoom right into a 1/2 mile range on the display, together provide the skipper with a better appreciation of potential hazards than seen before, allowing the appropriate action to be taken onboard to minimise risk.
The aim of this unique safety device can be summarised as follows:
- Increase safety and raise awareness
- Cut wasted time in sub sea hazard identification
- Minimise the risk of damage to subsea infrastructure
- Reduce the risk of environmental pollution
- Reduce the potential for fishing gear loss
- Reduce the risk of personal injury or loss of life