Industry body Oil & Gas UK has welcomed a review of offshore transportation in North Sea, including measures to increase safety.
The review, carried out by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), was commissioned in the wake of a string of helicopter incidents in the North Sea in recent years. Most recently, the UK North Sea’s Super Puma fleet was grounded after an AS332 L2 model of the aircraft, carrying 16 offshore workers, crashed close to the Shetland Islands, on 23 August 2013, killing four.
Measures recommended by the review include stopping helicopter flights in the most severe sea conditions, only allowing passengers if they are able to sit next to an emergency window seat, and provision of better emergency breathing equipment.
It also recommends helicopter operators make a number of changes to aircraft, including fitting handles next to emergency windows, fitting automatic floats, and improvements to life rafts and life jackets.
The CAA will establish and chair a new safety forum that will actively promote delivery of the recommendations and publicly report on progress. The safety review was carried out with support from the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
CAA chairman Dame Deirdre Hutton said: “The safety of those who rely on offshore helicopter flights is our absolute priority. The steps we are announcing will result in significant improvements in safety for those flying to and from offshore sites in the UK and potentially worldwide.
“We expect helicopter operators, the oil and gas industry and EASA to move forward with recommendations to them as soon as possible. For our part, the CAA is already taking forward actions directly under our control. We will monitor and report regularly on progress, so that people can have confidence that these important changes are being implemented as quickly as possible.”
In detail, the measures include:
A number of recommendations will be made to EASA, as the regulator for helicopter certification and airworthiness. These include enhancing the safety of helicopters; establishing a review of offshore helicopter accidents and incidents with national aviation organizations, such as the CAA, to highlight safety issues and develop remedies; and, the development of standardized helicopter operating information for pilots.
The CAA also said it is expecting helicopter operators to make improvements to helicopters and survival equipment including:
The Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organisation (OPITO) will be expected to improve survival training for offshore workers.
Oil & Gas UK’s health, safety & employment issues director Robert Paterson welcomed the review.
He said: “This comprehensive analysis of North Sea helicopter operations and safety performance proposes a series of actions and makes a number of important recommendations for the industry, and the focus is now on managing the changes arising from the report in a considered and systematic way. We applaud the involvement of the Norwegian aviation authority together with an independent peer group in the review process and note the CAA review found no significant differences between UK and Norway operations. We have a constructive working relationship with the CAA and we will continue to work closely with the CAA and the Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) to ensure the recommendations made in today’s report are acted on as appropriate.”
The CAA worked with trade unions representing industry workers and pilots, the oil and gas industry, helicopter operators, manufacturers, government, regulatory bodies, and other experts in the field, as well as analyzing available data and reports, as part of its review.
The full review is available on the CAA website here: http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP%201145%20Offshore%20helicopter%20review%20and%20annexes%20final.pdf