AN APP detailing hazards on the seabed and surface, aiming to make life safer for thousands of fishermen operating in the North Sea, has been launched.
The FishSAFE Companion App will give information about oil and gas equipment, ranging from platforms to subsea pipelines, so fishermen can better understand what the object is.
It is designed to complement FishSAFE Information and the FishSAFE Unit which are already used by hundreds of skippers who fish in the North Sea, and provides them with detailed information about potential oil and gas-related hazards in UK waters.
The new free app provides extra information about objects such as subsea wellheads, pipelines and protective structures.
The size of equipment is indicated by a scale representation using easily-recognisable objects such as a person, bus or plane so fishermen can easily see how big the potential hazards are in comparison.
Users can also type in their own notes in case, for example, the item has moved.
FishSAFE was set up after four men died when the Arbroath trawler Westhaven sank after it snagged on an underwater pipeline in 1997.
It was the brainchild of FLTC Services, a joint venture between Oil & Gas UK, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations.
Niall Scott, FLTC Services chairman, said the new app will help fishermen by giving them more information about potential hazards shown in the FishSAFE Information data and the FishSAFE unit.
He said: “We all want our fishing fleet to be as safe as possible. The additional information in the FishSAFE Companion App is presented in a really easy-to-access way.
“We are really pleased with the app as it provides information on people’s smartphones or tablets so they don’t have to buy or maintain an extra piece of kit - it’s there in their hands when they need it.
“There are thousands of oil and gas objects on the sea bed and on the surface - with 26,000 kilometers of pipelines alone - and many of them can be a potential hazard for fishing vessels.
“In the long term, platforms will be decommissioned and in some cases operators will receive consent to leave part of the infrastructure on the sea bed so we needed a lasting place for information on potential hazards which would also be easily accessed, which is what the FishSAFE Information Project is all about.
“We really appreciate the help of everyone involved - from the oil and gas companies who provide the information, the people who work for them who input and collate the information, feedback from the fishing industry and substantial financial support in grants from the Scottish Government and the European Union through the European Fisheries Fund.
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“We’re here to help prevent snagging accidents and help save fishermen’s lives, and we hope the app can go a long way to providing information to do that.”
Fishermen can download the app while onshore or at sea and the information is permanently stored on their smartphone or tablet so they can easily view it, even when there’s no mobile phone coverage.
The information for the FishSAFE project is provided by oil and gas companies and is updated every six months and a version of the data is usually issued to fishermen in January and July.
The FishSAFE unit is updated at the same time, and the information can also be downloaded from the organisation’s website which is updated frequently with urgent notices about oil and gas infrastructure and new snagging hazards.
FishSAFE Information provides skippers with detailed notes about oil and gas-related potential hazards in UK waters, and can be displayed on a plotter device on board a vessel.
The FishSAFE unit - which is fixed in the wheelhouse - shows on a screen where the boat is and where pipelines and structures are in the area along with the statutory and HSE safety zones, and provides an audible and visual alarm when a boat is near a potential hazard.
The new app, which was developed and made by Aberdeen-based AVC Media, was welcomed by government and industry leaders.
John Watt, former skipper and director of marine operations at Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Services Ltd, said: “We feel that the FishSAFE Companion App is a great initiative.
“Making use of modern technology it complements the existing FishSAFE system, providing fishermen with a greater perspective of the scale and design of subsea oil and gas infrastructure on the seabed within their traditional fishing grounds.”
Mike Borwell, environment director at Oil & Gas UK, said: “The new FishSAFE Companion App is another positive example of the fishing and oil and gas industries working together.
“The app will be very useful for fishermen as it provides excellent information on offshore infrastructure. It will also be a really useful source of information for the offshore sector itself.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, said: “The fishing industry is vital to many of our rural communities all across Scotland and the safety of fishermen, offshore oil and gas personnel and the protection of the marine environment is extremely important.
“I am delighted to have supported the FishSAFE initiative and the development of this new app, I am certain it will make a positive contribution to the collective future safety of those working in these valuable Scottish-based industries.”
AVC Media, which employs 42 staff, specialises in audio visual, media and sports productions, 3D animation and creative services at its Altens base.
Scott Graham, manager of the firm’s creative department which made the app, said it was good to put the firm’s in-house knowledge of app-building to such a good cause.
“We were more than happy to help with this project and we hope the ease-of-use and accessibility of putting the information on smartphones and tablets will be put to good use by fishermen.”
The app, which was launched today after the FLTC’s board meeting at the University of Aberdeen, is available on Android from today, with the Apple version to follow.
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