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Audit of Statoil related to free-fall lifeboats

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has conducted an audit of Statoil ASA (Statoil) related to free-fall lifeboats. Among other things, the audit activity revealed two nonconformities in relation to the petroleum regulations. These were related to deficient quality assurance requirements and deficient control of the ultimate limit states.

The audit was conducted on 15 May 2007 in Statoil's offices at Forus. A document review was also carried out at Statoil on 25 May 2007.

Additional documentation was forwarded to us on 11 June 2007. Statoil was mainly measured against Section 43 of the Facilities Regulations relating to means of evacuation which states in part that "It shall be possible to carry out quick and effective evacuation of personnel on facilities to a safe area in all weather conditions."

Background for the audit
In the summer of 2005, weaknesses were discovered on the free-fall lifeboats on the Norwegian shelf (link). The flaws mainly related to weaknesses in the superstructure which could result in excessive deflection, and thus danger of injury in connection with launches from heights approaching the maximum launch heights, or in combination with wave loads.

Reinforcements have been implemented based on experience and new knowledge gained from OLF's lifeboat project.

On 2 November 2006 we were informed that persons on certain lifeboats could sustain excessive acceleration loads in connection with the drop. Based on this information the affected players, including Statoil, have implemented some precautionary measures.

The HSE regulations for the petroleum activities state functional requirements. This means that the regulations state the level of safety to be achieved, but no details on how to achieve this.

The industry has used certified boats in accordance with maritime regulations. With this new knowledge, both the authorities and the industry have seen that the previously recommended norm does not satisfy the requirement for quick and effective evacuation during all weather conditions.

In consequence of this, our letter dated 10 November 2006 confirms that we have therefore removed the reference to the recognized norms.

The consequence of this change is that the industry must find other ways in which to assure itself, and document, that personnel on the facilities can be quickly and safely evacuated during all weather conditions.

The audit activity was linked to how Statoil had documented that the free-fall lifeboats could be used as a means of evacuation in accordance with Section 43 of the Facilities Regulations.

Purpose of the audit
The PSA conducted this audit activity to ensure that Statoil complied with the regulations in its role as responsible entity for the activities. During the audit, particular emphasis was placed on Statoil's verification, quality assurance requirements and supervision linked to

  • pressure, accelerations and motion,

  • ability of human beings to withstand accelerations and motion.


Result of the audit
As regards pressure, accelerations and motion, Statoil planned measures to reduce risk. Since several lifeboats were designed only pursuant to serviceability limit states and accident limit states (SLS and ALS) and not pursuant to ultimate limit states (ULS), there is nevertheless a need for further upgrades of the lifeboats.

As regards human reactions, considerable progress has been made in understanding the issues as compared with what was the case in November 2006. However, there are a number of unresolved issues linked in part to human tolerance limits, pregnancy, lifeboat coxswains' ability to react after a drop and evacuation of injured persons. Studies are also underway of measures to reduce the consequences for human beings, particularly new belts.

Two nonconformities were revealed during the audit activity. These were linked to deficient quality assurance requirements and deficient control of ultimate limit states.

An improvement item was also noted as regards traceability in the documentation.

Contact person in the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway:
Mike Theiss