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A survival story following the 2012 incident on the Bibby Topaz with diver Chris Lemons.

"A saturation diver has only minutes left to breathe. His umbilical connection to gas, warmth, light and communications has been violently ripped from him in one of the most hostile environments on earth. A freak computer error has sent his ship drifting hundreds of metres off-station. He is lost, stranded, in pitch darkness and knows he has very little chance of being rescued..."

Lifeline charts the incredible efforts of his colleagues to get him back to safety. Powerful first-hand accounts and unique footage of the incident throw into sharp focus the value of one human life, at a time when his very existence hangs in the balance. Lifeline demonstrates how safety leadership behaviours, procedures and emergency actions prevented a catastrophic outcome from a severely life-threatening situation."

Lifeline has now being developed into a feature-length documentary film directed by Floating Harbour founder Richard da Costa, Last Breath, released in 2019.

  • In Depth

In Depth

Our client, Bibby Offshore, wanted us to take on this project with the intent of highlighting the potentially extreme consequences of an incident in the workplace. The idea of creating the film 'Lifeline' was simply to tell the story honestly and accurately, so that it can be used (in conjunction with other materials) to satisfy interest in the incident and compliment wider efforts by the company to generate interest in safety activities globally. The goal of this is to help motivate activities that will result in driving improvements throughout the industry.

The film is not intended to focus in itself on the lessons learned, but rather to engage an audience with the story. It will then be used together with accompanying materials derived from the findings of investigations, to provoke other similar organisations into asking questions about their own practices and what enhancements could be made to their own procedures. It will be used by Bibby Offshore Ltd at events, as a catalyst for debate and to feed into other structured activities. It will also be used by Bibby internally as well as being given to a wide range of industry professionals to utilise as part of their own work in the area of improving the safety culture within their own organisations.

A potentially catastrophic incident on any ordinary day might only be a moment away. Nevertheless, safety can often be a dry subject that does not easily engage a workforce. The aim of Lifeline therefore, is to show the true value and importance of Health & Safety in the workplace by focusing on a the story of a man’s life in jeopardy - and to put the value of that life into vivid perspective by telling a true story that brings to life the human side of safety.

  • Production Values

Production Values

Lifeline was possible because we were presented with the rare opportunity of having so much original footage which captured the incident in a truly authentic way. This included Remotely Operated Vehicle footage, helmet cameras, cameras within the bell and recordings from the bridge which we collated and edited as part of the process. Working with the incident reports and investigations, we selected key moments that tell the story in remarkable detail utilising graphics and powerful real-life footage.

Substantial research was done prior to the interviews to ensure that a comprehensive understanding was gained and maximum value was realised from every interview. Nine key contributors were bought in and we conducted three to four-hour interviews with each individual. Getting the whole story from their perspective to a high level of detail formed the basis of our production. Genuine and emotional interviews were filmed with the use of specialist equipment which enables the subject to make eye contact with the director whilst also looking down the lens. The result is a very natural and direct conversation with the viewer and this was felt to be particularly apt for this personal and emotional story. We shot all of the interviews in 4K. In doing so, this allowed us to capture both mid and close up shots from a single angle, giving us the ability to crop in without any loss of quality on an HD output, whilst maintaining the 'down the lens' style. We gradually and imperceptibly move into this shot through the edit, to heighten intensity at climactic moments.

Bringing the story to life, graphic representations were created to help the audience understand the geography as the incident unfolds. We designed 3D Graphics representing the vessel in significant seas at night, as well as the bell in the underwater environment. We also created a 2D animated representation describing the exact location of the vessel, the bell, the divers and the structures on the seabed. By including these graphics, we were able to complement the original close-up footage, giving the audience a sense of the bigger picture and Chris’s predicament and isolation.

Foley sound effects, including underwater dive suit breathing during differing physical states, were recorded in order to further bring the story to life and enhance the audience experience. This was combined with original composition music and soundscape to fully immerse the viewer in the story.

It was felt that having an expert contributor element would strengthen the production by offering insight into the physiology at play. It could also help to connect an audience, who may have some industry knowledge but are nevertheless not themselves saturation divers, with the story. We used Dr Kevin Fong, who is not only an expert in extreme environments, but is an experienced broadcaster. Dr Fong was a perfect choice to include, lending an additional aspect to the story-telling and to the viewer’s understanding. We filmed Dr Fong at the Diving Diseases Research Centre in Plymouth. It was felt that this would provide an appropriate backdrop for his contribution.

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In order to help the audience visualise the environment, we also went offshore to capture footage from the vessel, which afforded us a significant additional element and enhanced the production values. Divers were also given cameras to film themselves living in the saturation chambers.

We captured footage of the diver at the centre of the incident at home with his wife, in order to build an emotional connection with the viewer. The aim of this element was to enhance the aspect of the human side of safety, which was fundamental to the primary objective. We conducted an interview with Chris’ wife in their domestic environment to highlight the emotional impact of such a serious incident.

Using photographs charting the history of Chris’ life and personal wedding video clips, we were able to place emphasis on who and what would have been lost had Chris not survived. Time-lapse footage in the surrounding area of our protagonist’s home was created to aid the flow and rhythm of the film. These act both as transitions between sections of the film as well as being a metaphor for the passing of time; for survival and for life.

Creating a film with the highest production values we could achieve, within budget, was of critical importance to us. We wanted to ensure maximum emotional impact in order to gain maximum viewer engagement. Producing a high-quality film also tied in with our primary objective of putting safety best practice at the forefront of industry debate. Our objective was to put as much of the budget on screen as possible.

  • Impact/Effectiveness


Directly after the incident, Bibby Offshore set up the Diver Safety Workgroup with the objective of driving safety improvements in diving and marine operations globally. Bibby Offshore’s focus is to continually review and challenge how it conducts its operations and to participate in industry sector forums to share safety enhancements and lessons learned. 'Lifeline' is currently being used at a number of industry conferences as part of an ongoing drive to raise awareness and stimulate discussion, debate and strategies for ongoing safety improvements. The film is a vehicle for the cascading of learning through a process of industry engagement, with the purpose of raising awareness of offshore safety issues. This is intended to keep the importance of continual improvement high on the safety agenda. As well as being used internally at all levels of the organisation, 'Lifeline' is also being given to other companies across the industry in order to share best practice and maximise the potential of the film to stimulate engagement and discussion. It is further intended that the process of sharing this work will be extended beyond the Oil and Gas Sector.

As a result of the accident, Bibby Offshore now consider themselves leaders in Health and Safety for the Oil and Gas Industry. The film’s objective is primarily to raise awareness of health and safety issues and drive safety improvements in diving and marine operations globally.

At the time of writing, the film has been used at Bibby Offshore’s annual safety conference, at some other industry events and with business units within Bibby Offshore Holdings - informal feedback so far has been outstanding. In terms of measuring the results, we are very early in the process of what will be an ongoing and long-term rollout. Site visits utilising the film will be formally recorded within the companies assurance programme (Synergi). At the end of the film, a facilitated discussion is held and the audience has the opportunity to discuss how they feel after watching the film. To date, some excellent discussions have taken place which are directly resulting in improvements to diving safety. Actions arising from the film showings are tracked and tracked as Management Site visits in Synergi.

Lifeline is also due to be shown at a global diving safety conference in Houston in February, where leaders of several key commercial diving companies and organisations will be present. Feedback from this event will be formally recorded. Initial copies have been produced and are about to be distributed to the following organisations to help enhance their own Health and Safety programmes:

Tlisman, Maersk, Conoco Phillips, Premier Oil, Enquest, Centrica, Total, Eon, Fairfield Energy, Hess, Shell, BG Group, Nexen, Apache, Chevron, GDF Suez, BP, Dana Petroleum, TAQA, Marathon Oil, CNR, Endeavour, Dong, Maersk Olie Og, Technip, Subsea 7a