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Ready to react

The PSA is always on the alert to deal with serious incidents in Norway’s petroleum industry. Its emergency response centre will be mobilised in the gravest cases.

This article was originally published in
Safety - Status and Signals 2012-2013

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An emergency hotline at the PSA is staffed around the clock to receive and register notified events, make an initial assessment of their gravity and decide how to respond.  

The authority’s main role in a crisis is to supervise that the operator responds in an acceptable manner and in compliance with the regulations.

Should an incident pose a threat to life and health, the PSA may decide to staff up its emergency response centre. This happened four times in 2012, compared with seven the year before.

One of the most serious incidents which prompted mobilisation of the centre during 2012 was the accident on the mobile Floatel Superior accommodation rig.

A total of 336 people were evacuated by helicopter from this facility on 7 November after an anchor punctured one of its ballast tanks and caused it to develop a list.

Bryn Aril Kalberg, duty officer for the PSA that night, was awakened by a call from operator Statoil at 04.15. He grasped at once that this was serious.

“I called in an experienced operations leader, who met me at the emergency response centre. We also quickly recruited a
colleague with special expertise on mobile units and mooring.

“In addition, PSA management, the supervision coordinator, our press spokeswomanand the Ministry of Labour were informed.”

In an emergency, the ministry is kept continuously informed about developmentsand the PSA’s professional assessment of conditions.

The position on Floatel Superior worsened as the morning wore on, and the centre became fully staffed with relevant administrative support, specialists and press contacts.

Close dialogue needed to be maintained between the last two groups in order to respond to considerable media interest. The emergency response organisation monitored the rescue action closely until the position was found to have been clarified around 15.00.

Kalberg led the team throughout the incident, and regarded it as dramatic:

“It’s unusual for an operator and a vessel owner to evacuate so many people in such bad weather.”

Working with emergency preparedness at the PSA for almost 20 years, Kalberg been involved in similar events before. Such experience confers self-confidence and a sense of security.

“Regular exercises are also incredibly important,” he observes.

“Although they’re never like the real thing, these are crucial for becoming proficient in the practical aspects. That gives you a sense of security when you really need it.”

Six major exercises were staged in the PSA’s response centre during 2012, four in cooperation with the industry and two internal. In addition, the authority participated in several big exercises in collaboration with the petroleum sector and other government agencies.

The centre acquired new and specially tailored premises in the spring of 2012, and is now located at the heart of the PSA’s Stavanger offices. Plenty of space and modern facilities mean that the authority is well equipped to tackle a crisis.

An intensive training and educational programme for all employees likely to be involved in an emergency response was implemented when the new centre opened.

Kalberg is very satisfied with its facilities:

“We have up-to-date technical aids, with good backup systems if anything should fail.

“But our most important instrument of all remains the telephone. If we can’t communicate with the world at large, we’re worth nothing.”

Relevant: Duty to notify