Helicopter operations high potential near miss incidents

Incident description

We have recently seen an alarming increase in the number of High Potential (HiPo) Near Miss reports related to poor preparation of helicopter landing areas. Most cases have involved loose items of equipment, in particular slack (unpressurised) fire hoses.





Loose items of equipment and slack (unpressurised) fire hoses will move around in an unpredictable manner when exposed to helicopter down-wash, seriously compromising safe helicopter operations by introducing a very high risk of impact with the helicopter.

If loose items and slack fire hoses are observed by the helicopter pilot the landing will be aborted.

Any reports related to loose equipment and slack fire hoses will be treated as High Potential Occurrences (HiPo) by RightShip. As a result, the vessel will not be recommendable to customers until the incident has been properly investigated with corrective and preventative actions found acceptable to both RightShip and any associated stakeholders (i.e. Charterers, Terminals, Port Authorities).



Clear non-compliance with the ICS Guide to Helicopter / Ship Operations and a failure to conduct a Tool-Box Talk are the principle causes, along with a failure to fully identify, appreciate and risk assess the associated hazards.


Corrective actions

Fully implement ‘Pre-arrival Checks on the Ship’ as documented in ICS Guide to Helicopter/Ship Operations

In particular from Chapter

  • All loose objects within and adjacent to the operating area must be secured or removed;
  • Fire Pumps should be running and providing sufficient water pressure on deck;
  • Fire hoses and foam equipment should be ready, near to but clear of the operating area, and if possible upwind and with nozzles pointing away from the area in case of inadvertent discharge.

Whilst not specifically stated, Fire Hoses must be charged or pressurised to ensure they are ready for immediate use and do not pose a hazard as a loose item.

Fire Hose fully ready for use = Fire pump running > Hose connected > Hydrant open > Fire hose purged of air/full of water > Nozzle closed


Best practise preventative actions

  • Share this Circular with Officers and Crew;
  • Always follow Terminal/Port specific requirements and checklists;
  • All Helicopter Operations to be treated as Safety Critical with appropriate Planning, Risk Assessment and Toolbox Talk conducted;
  • Conduct regular Training and Review of Helicopter Procedures on-board;
  • Consider revisions to SMS & Checklists to capture the above lessons learned.


Additional resources

AAIB Bulletin – April 2016

Marine Insight – 10 important points for safe helicopter operations onboard ships

BP – Helicopter Downdraft Dangers


Article written by:
Christopher Saunders – Global Marine Process Manager, RightShip
Marc Forster – Global Marine Standards Manager, RightShip