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Smoothing the way to an AoC

Better supervision of the construction phase and paying more attention to personnel qualifications could make life easier for rig contractors seeking to get their vessels onto the NCS.


A steady stream of applications to secure acknowledgements of compliance (AoC) for mobile units has been experienced by the PSA in recent years, and 2014 looks like being no exception.

“Nine new rigs are in the queue for an AoC this year,” reports supervision coordinator Odd Rune Skilbrei at the PSA, who has long exception of following up such vessels.

“That means we could come close to breaking the present AoC record, which was set in 2009,” he adds. A combination of factors underlies the big demand for mobile units on the NCS.

These include a persistently high level of activity with much exploration and a number of big development projects, a record number of producing fields and increased tail production.

An AoC represents a long-term investment for the company which acquires it, giving a good return in the form of predictability, enhanced expertise about the regulations and improved knowledge of the technical condition of its own facility.

Intensive
Considering an application for an AoC can be resource-intensive both for the PSA and for the applicant company, Skilbrei emphasises.

“The industry must improve construction follow-up and focus more on qualifying personnel if it wants quicker action and reduced work in connection with an AoC.

“If we receive a perfect application without nonconformities, the approval process will take three months. But the average is about half a year.

 “We generally devote about 1 000 work hours to verifying a new rig. When it’s only a matter of a change of ownership, we can get that down to 400 hours.”

A new application for an AoC must be submitted if the unit changes hands because the scheme also looks at the individual company’s management systems.

Description
In addition, the technical description of the facility and the determination of its compliance with the regulations will determine whether an application is approved.

“If the unit isn’t compliant, the owner can apply in some cases for an exemption,” says Skilbrei. “That primarily involves older vessels should the regulations change.

“But we never give an exemption for safety-critical conditions – and we always find nonconformities of varying degrees of seriousness, so the overall assessment is the most important.”

Noting that the same nonconformities recur from facility to facility, he has a clear recommendation to companies seeking an AoC.

“Learn from the errors of other owners by reading our audit reports from earlier cases. These are all published on our website, so the information is available to all.”

AoC in brief
An acknowledgement of compliance (AoC) is a declaration from the PSA which expresses the regulator’s confidence that the unit concerned can fulfil the requirements for petroleum operations.

The goals of the scheme, which began in 2000, include clarifying the division of responsibility between operator and contractor.