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Audit of transport of personnel in case of special weather bulletins – helicopter capacity

During the period 13 - 22 October 2008, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) conducted audits of three operating companies which are planning personnel transport in case of special weather bulletins. In this connection, we have also gathered information and viewpoints from the helicopter companies, CHC Helikopter Service and Norsk Helikopter. The audit was conducted in the form of meetings with BP, StatoilHydro, ConocoPhillips and the two helicopter companies. We did not identify any non-conformities in relation to regulatory requirements.

Background for the audit
Several of the operating companies on the Norwegian Shelf plan to move personnel from certain installations in case of special weather bulletins. This applies in general to transportation from

- installations which are vulnerable to subsidence, and/or
- installations which have lifeboats with weather-related use constraints.

It may be necessary to move personnel from several facilities concurrently within a limited period of time. Plans involve moving a large number of persons.

Plans call for carrying out all personnel transport by helicopter to other installations or ashore. These are situations which raise a number of questions and issues:

  • Criteria for personnel transportw
  • Weather bulletins as a basis for making decisions
  • Receiving capacity for personnel, on land and at sea
  • Availability of landing places / helicopter decks, on land and at sea
  • Capacity, availability and prioritisation of helicopters and aircrew.

Sikorsky S-92A (kilde: Norsk Helikopter)

Sikorsky S-92A (Source: Norsk Helikopter)

Purpose of the audit
The purpose of the audit was to obtain a necessary overview and information to be able to evaluate whether the industry's overall plans relating to personnel transport can be carried out in a safe manner, cf. Section 15 of the Activities Regulations - Transportation. 

Result of the audit 
It is our general impression that in recent years, the three operating companies BP, ConocoPhillips and StatoilHydro have maintained a substantial focus on issues in relation to personnel transport in connection with special weather bulletins. The companies have gained positive experience from both real-life incidents and exercises. The companies have utilized these experiences in a constructive manner for improvements and adjustments in their own procedures.

In meetings with the PSA in November 2008, the companies presented criteria and plans personnel transport from certain installations in the case of special weather bulletins.

It is our assessment that the individual operating companies have presented realistic plans for personnel transport when special weather bulletins are issued. Furthermore, it is our assessment that the companies' overall plans are realistic and feasible.

CHC Helikopter Service and Norsk Helikopter confirm that the operating companies' plans are feasible.

One operating company uses the term "evacuation" about moving personnel ashore by helicopter. In the PSA's opinion, this indicates that the operating company considers this type of situation hazardous or as an accident, cf. Section 68 of the Activities Regulations - Management of hazardous and accident situations. According to the PSA's understanding, this transport of personnel is a scheduled activity to prevent a hazardous or accident situation from arising. Based on this, the PSA is of the opinion that use of the term "evacuation" is unfortunate in this context.