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Offshore rescue

Who do you call in an emergency?

Anne-Katrin Wehrmann, 12 May 14
Long distances from land and difficult weather conditions make rescue missions to offshore wind farms a real challenge.

Everyone knows exactly what they’re doing, but this time something happens to go wrong. The technician working on an offshore wind turbine in the middle of the North Sea misses the next rung on the ladder. He slips and injures his shin painfully as he falls. At first he and his colleagues don’t think the injury is that serious, but later, when he is back at the wind farm’s transformer and accommodation platform, the pain grows worse and there is a danger that the wound will become infected. As there are no doctors for miles around and the next staff changeover is only scheduled to take place in three days’ time, the team alerts the rescue helicopter crew stationed on the mainland. Within 15 minutes, the helicopter is on its way. But before it arrives, what experts describe as “critical weather conditions” suddenly develop. Fog unexpectedly appears and become so thick that it is no longer possible to land on the platform. The helicopter has to turn round and fly to the nearest island, Borkum, leaving the mission unaccomplished.

This typical occupational accident occurred several months ago in an offshore wind farm far from the coast, and paints a vivid picture of the special challenges faced by rescue missions at sea. It usually takes between 60 and 90 minutes for a doctor to arrive.

This is an abridged version of the article – the full text is available in new energy issue 03/2014

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