The U.S. Coast Guard has released the report of its investigation into a fatal lifeboat accident on Shell’s Auger tension leg platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in 2019.
The incident took place during a routine lifeboat launch and recovery drill on June 30, 2019. Two people inside the lifeboat were killed when they fell 80 feet, landing face down in the water. Another person, who was exiting the lifeboat when it broke loose, was seriously injured.
According to the report, the stern hook of lifeboat No. 6 on the Auger platform inadvertently opened when the lifeboat was being hooked to the davit after the drill. “The lifeboat, still hanging from the bow hook, rotated in a pendulum motion away from the installation. A few seconds later, the bow hook separated from the lifeboat and opened, and the lifeboat fell approximately 80 feet, landing inverted in the water,” investigators said in the executive summary.
The investigation determined that the “initiating event” of the incident occurred when the stern hook locking shaft moved from the “near open” position to the open position, which in turn caused the stern hook to open under load and release from the lifting ring.
“Based on the evidence collected and evaluated, it is likely that on the morning of June 30, 2019, the crew cycled (from the open to the closed position) the hooks twice while in the water. The already compromised cable conduit was exposed to additional stresses, including compression and stretching. It is likely that during the second cycle, the already weakened and damaged conduit separated during the closing action. As a result, when the system was reset, the aft hook locking shaft did not return to the fully closed position, but remained in a “nearly open” position. In this position, the hook was able to support the weight of the lifeboat and its occupants,” the report said.
Following the incident, the Coast Guard issued a safety alert after preliminary investigation identified a damaged control cable within the lifeboat’s release mechanism.
The U.S. Coast Guard has issued ten safety recommendations and eight administrative recommendations related to the investigation.