Home » News » Trade Union Calls for Plan B for Helicopter Traffic After Fatal Crash – Safety Concerns on Continental Shelf

Trade Union Calls for Plan B for Helicopter Traffic After Fatal Crash – Safety Concerns on Continental Shelf

The trade unions on the continental shelf are worried after the helicopter crash on Wednesday, and are hoping for answers. – Have called for a plan B for helicopter traffic, says Safe manager Raymond Midtgård.

This picture shows a Sikorsky helicopter at the Johan Sverdrup field in 2019. Photo: Jon Ingemundsen / Stavanger Aftenblad Published:

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One person died in the helicopter accident in Western Norway on Wednesday evening, on assignment for Equinor.

“After the incident, Equinor decided to suspend its regular flights on the Norwegian continental shelf out of consideration for those affected and to gain an overview of the situation,” the oil and gas company writes in a melding.

The oil workers’ union Safe has confidence in those who are handling the helicopter accident outside Bergen, but asks the operators on the shelf to strengthen preparedness.

– I hope they implement contingency plans and that they reduce production. They must ensure the least possible risk, says Safe manager Raymond Midtgård to NTB.

– Creates a certain concern

It is only eight years since 13 died in a helicopter crash on Turøy outside Bergen. Another helicopter accident linked to an offshore helicopter could cause concern for commuters to and from the Norwegian continental shelf.

– It is clear, any accident will always cause some concern. This is the way people get to work on the shelf, says Henrik Solvorn Fjeldsbø in IE&FLT (formerly Industri Energi) to E24.

– This is a search and rescue machine that has gone down, and they don’t fly in the same pattern as a spending machine. There is nothing so far to indicate that there is an increased risk for the flights on the continental shelf, he says.

– What do we know about the cause of the accident?

– It is too early to say yet. The closest you will get to an indication of the cause is when you interrogate the crew.

Union secretary Henrik Solvorn Fjeldsbø in IE&FLT. Photo: Industri Energi

– Receives messages of concern

– It is clear that we receive messages of concern when this happens. This applies to both those who are going out and those who are going home, and especially those who are sitting at home and waiting, says Safe manager Raymond Midtgård to E24.

– First and foremost, we show concern for the next of kin. Deaths on the shelf are not something we want, he says.

He is happy that Equinor is taking action and temporarily suspending helicopter traffic, and has given clear instructions to people not to meet at the heliports on Thursday.

– When does it become important to find out why this happened. And that can take time.

Union leader in Safe, Raymond Midtgård. Photo: Victoria Varzari / Safe

Want more helicopter types

After the accident in 2016, the Super Puma helicopters were grounded.

Midtgård fears that this could put the S-92 on the ground for a longer time.

– Yes. It has been eight years since the Turøy accident and we have flown in that period with only one type of helicopter. There should have been more types in place, he says.

– If alternatives to a helicopter, such as a boat, must be used temporarily, then this must be discussed between the parties. We have called for a plan B for helicopter traffic and the involvement of the tripartite collaboration, says Midtgård.

Equinor recently announced that it will eventually also use Leonardo helicopters.

There has been a shortage of parts

Recently, there have been challenges in obtaining spare parts for the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter type that is used on the Norwegian continental shelf.

But it is too early to say what caused the accident.

– Can this be linked to the challenges of obtaining spare parts?

– No, I do not think so. The people who maintain these helicopters are 110 percent honest and do things right. We have full confidence in them. This is also partly why we have had a shortage of parts, because there have been cases of poor quality, says Midtgård.

Fjeldsbø in IE&FLT believes it is difficult to speculate on the cause of the crash.

– But with what we know now, there is little to indicate that you have to put the helicopters on the ground. But we will know more after questioning and after the parts are retrieved from the sea, he says.

– Can this be linked to the challenges of obtaining spare parts?

– I hear there is a lot of speculation and thoughts about this. But there is nothing so far to suggest that this has anything to do with the parts shortage. The parts shortage is particularly linked to the fact that there is too little production of new gearboxes, and this does not seem to have anything to do with it. But we have to wait and see what the investigation will show.

Demanding if there is a stoppage

Equinor reports that the company wants to quickly get the helicopters back into normal operation. It is now making the necessary preparations to make this happen in a safe way.

The helicopters of the S-92 type are absolutely essential for helicopter traffic to and from Norwegian oil and gas fields, and if they were to be grounded over time, it would have become demanding for operations on the shelf.

– Then oil production will quickly be reduced, because then we lack preparedness, says Midtgård.

– I would not have welded or drilled on a platform now. Because how are you going to get ashore then, without transport. I hope that the emergency plans are followed by the operators. Then measures must be taken on board the platforms, such as reducing activity, says the Safe manager.

Fjeldsbø points out that many passengers are transported to and from the shelf every day. Without helicopters, alternatives such as boats would have been needed. This creates many new practical problems in getting people on board the platforms, especially in bad weather.

– If the helicopters were theoretically put on the ground for a longer period, it would create major challenges for the oil and gas industry, says Fjeldsbø.

2024-02-29 07:30:24

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