When transporting groceries and small goods to offshore platforms, there are 3 phases to be aware of, which are:
Offshore installations and support vessels usually contract a catering and hotel services company
These services are headed by a person often called a “Camp Boss”, and he is responsible for making sure that dry and fresh food provisions are ordered in a timely manner from his shore representatives.
The shore representatives contact wholesale supply companies and put their orders in.
Food and provisions are almost always loaded onto supply vessels or crew boats, in either chiller or freezer ISO containers.
Goods such as detergents, towels, cutlery, etc. are either put in baskets or special pallets, which are designed for overhead lifting operations, or a standard ISO container.
The supply boat will then sail to the platform, rig, barge, ROV/DSV, where the containers are transferred by crane to the relevant installation.
The chiller and freezer containers utilize the supply boat’s power supply to keep the chiller/freezer compressors running during the voyage from shore.
Refrigeration records are kept and are examined before accepting the food offshore.
Offshore food that is spoiled would have serious implications, both to health and morale.
Once on the installation, the ISO containers are quickly emptied and returned to the supply vessel, so that it can return them to shore for the next delivery.
A full inventory of delivered stock is checked against the purchase order, as it is not unknown for certain food items to be replaced by inferior products by the wholesalers onshore, in order to maximize the wholesalers’ profits.
Choose your food carefully when sourcing
The quality and safety of some food can be affected by poor storage and packaging.
Choose food carefully when you are sourcing them.
Here are some examples of things you should not buy:
- dented, swollen, or leaking cans or containers
- products with damaged or imperfect packaging
- cracked or dirty eggs
- chilled or frozen foods that have been left out of the refrigerator or freezer
- products that are soiled or moldy
- ready-to-eat foods left uncovered on counters
- hot food, like takeaways, which are not steaming hot
- anything where you have doubts about the quality.
Take special care with high-risk foods
Food-poisoning bacteria grow and multiply on some types of food more easily than on others.
These high-risk foods include:
- raw and cooked meat, including poultry such as chicken and turkey, and foods containing these, such as casseroles, curries, and lasagne
- dairy products, such as custard and dairy-based desserts like custard tarts and cheesecake
- eggs and egg products, such as mousse
- small goods such as hams and salamis
- seafood, such as seafood salad, patties, fish balls, stews containing seafood and fish stock
- cooked rice and pasta
- prepared salads like coleslaws, pasta salads, and rice salads
- prepared fruit salads
- ready-to-eat foods, including sandwiches, rolls, and pizzas that contain any of the food above.
High-risk foods should be kept out of the temperature danger zone (5 °C to 60 °C/ 41 °F to 140 °F). Keep food at 5 °C or below or at 60 °C and above.
When you buy high-risk foods, try to minimize the time they spend in the temperature danger zone by packing them properly transporting them out ASAP.
Be Aware Of Expiration & Best Before Dates
Always check the date marked on perishable foods, especially chilled or frozen items.
A use-by date shows the date by which a product should be consumed.
It should not be bought after this date.
Best Before Dates
A best before date indicates the date until which the food will remain at its best quality.
It can be sold after this date.
Transporting Food to Offshore Barges
When transporting foods from land to offshore locations, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Make Cleanliness a Priority
- Check for cleanliness and only buy food from reputable sources that follow food safety regulations. Determine the general impression of the facility and make sure it looks and smells clean.
- Do not allow the juices from meats, and fish to mix with each other.
- Ensure your reefer containers are cleaned before and after transporting your goods.
Pick Your Produce
- Choose loose produce rather than packaged so you have more control over what you select.
- Don’t purchase produce with mold, major bruises, or cuts.
- Purchase only the amount of produce you will use within a week.
- Buy only pasteurized juices that have been kept refrigerated.
Inspect Food Packages
- There should be no holes, tears, or openings in food packages.
- Check safety seals. A loose lid on a jar means the vacuum has been lost and the product may be contaminated. Don’t purchase goods whose seals seem tampered with or damaged. Report a defective cap to your source.
- Avoid buying any cans that are deeply dented (one that you can lay your finger into), bulging, rusting, or have a dent on either the top or side seam. Deeply dented or bulging cans may be a warning sign of botulism, while cans with a sharp dent may damage the seam and allow bacteria to enter the can.
Check Dairy Products and Eggs
- When buying dairy products, cartons and containers must be cold before transportation.
- Make sure the eggs are clean and aren’t broken or cracked.
Be Selective with Fish and Seafood
- Buy fish only from reputable sources.
- Check for proper refrigeration of fresh fish. Look to see that flesh is shiny and firm, not separating from the bone, and the odour is fresh and mild, rather than overly “fishy”.
- Make sure packaged seafood is well-packed in ice and that packages are tightly sealed and free of dents and tears.
- Avoid packages containing ice crystals. This is a sign the seafood has previously thawed.
- Buy unwrapped cooked seafood such as shrimp, crab, or smoked fish only if it is displayed in a separate case or a physically separated section from raw fish. Bacteria on raw fish can contaminate cooked fish.
Look Over Meats and Poultry
- Make sure the packaging is tightly sealed and is very cold to the touch.
- Choose packaged chicken that looks pink, not grey.
- Always look for the ‘Safe Food Handling’ label or an equivalent on packages of bacon and fresh sausage. This label means the meat has undergone safe processing and includes handling and cooking tips.
In conclusion, we have discussed how groceries and small goods are handled on offshore platforms as well as choosing your food carefully when sourcing.
We also touched upon taking special care with high-risk food and being aware of expiration dates.
Finally, we mention the transportation of food to offshore barges.
These are some common questions on how groceries are handled on offshore platforms.
A graduate (Business) from KDU, Jason Tan, is the current Business Director (Sales) for MGS Icestorm and has been associated with the company for the past 10 years.
With over 13 years in the shipping industry, he has had a significant contribution to Malaysia’s oil and gas industry in the engine and boat supply sector.
His expertise includes managing offshore catering business, offshore reefer containers, AI technology, offshore gas tanks, A60 pressurized cabins, etc. His contributions have helped establish MGS, in partnership (joint venture) with Thermo King and Honeywell to produce state of art Offshore Reefer Container products.