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A sombre anniversary

Thirty years will have passed on 27 March since the Alexander L Kielland flotel capsized in the Ekofisk area of the North Sea, and 123 oil workers died. “It is appropriate to remember and reflect on this disaster,” writes Magne Ognedal, director-general of the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway.



 

"I personally experienced it at close quarters, but nevertheless from a secure office on land. The dimensions of the incident were simply so incredible and unreal for us. I remember that the whole population of Norway was in shock.

Those of us who worked on safety at the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate in those days promised each other that we would do our utmost to prevent anything similar from happening.

The Kielland disaster has challenged the whole petroleum industry for three decades, and will continue to do so. For us as a safety regulator, the challenge is never to forget that the protection of human lives must always come first.

Today’s offshore installations unquestionably incorporate substantially higher standards of safety and the working environment than they did 30 years ago.

That reflects in part the lessons we learnt from the Kielland disaster. It is very unlikely that another accident with the same causes could have similarly disastrous consequences today.

I nevertheless find it worrying that many major accidents have occurred in the industry since Kielland. And the potential for such an accident has been present in a number of incidents on the Norwegian continental shelf in recent years.

That prompts me to ask whether we are losing focus. Many of the young people entering the industry today have scarcely heard of the Alexander L Kielland.

Is it really the case that each generation must learn the hard way? Is direct experience of an accident the only way we can appreciate that they occur? These questions contribute to the priorities we have set in relation to the industry at the PSA.

I hope that all sides of the industry – out of respect for and in deference to the 123 people who lost their lives in the Kielland accident – will continue to work purposefully together in this area.

The goal of such collaboration must be to help secure an ever more effective reduction in the risk of major accidents and an ever safer and better working environment.

We owe it to all those who died or have suffered to do our best to prevent anything like the Kielland accident from happening again."


       Magne Ognedal