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Halt/restrictions in helicopter traffic – consequences for safety in the petroleum industry

The volcanic eruption over Iceland and the spread of ash in Norwegian airspace resulted in a full halt to all helicopter traffic to, from and between facilities on the Norwegian shelf on 15 April. In this situation, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) will pay particular attention to how operators and ship-owners handle their responsibility for ensuring prudent operations.


Monitoring the situation
On Thursday, 15 April, the Civil Aviation Authority decided to prohibit all flying in Norway as a result of the volcanic eruption in Iceland and the spread of ash in Norwegian airspace. Sections of the airspace were opened for limited air traffic on 16 April. The aviation authorities are continuously monitoring the situation

Used to handling weather situations
The PSA has been in communication with all operators and shipowners on the Norwegian shelf and emphasised the responsibility they bear for handling the situation on the basis of a risk-related assessment.

Necessary measures must be assessed and implemented with a view towards operating in a prudent manner in relation to the risk, and the operators and shipowners must be able to implement necessary measures in hazard and accident situations.

It is important to emphasise that operators and shipowners are used to handling weather situations where all or some of the helicopter traffic is grounded, for example in periods with dense fog.

Questions
In recent days, we have received a number of questions in relation to emergency preparedness issues, extension of stay (working hours) and alternative forms of transport.

Here is some information in relation to questions directed at the PSA in connection with this issue:

Use of SAR helicopter:

Extension of stay

 Alternative means of transport – use of vessels and cranes in connection with personnel transport:

  • Any transport of personnel involving lifting equipment requires the operator/shipowner to comply with the regulatory requirements, cf.Section 83 of the Activities Regulations relating to lifting operations. In the guidelines to this section, reference is made to Norsok R003, which describes operational aspects of such transport. Special attention should be given to Chapter 4, relating to safe use of lifting equipment, and Chapter 5, relating to additional requirements when lifting personnel.

Other relevant links

Information from the authorities

  • Relevant articles from the ministries about the volcanic eruption in Iceland have been gathered in one place on the Government’s website. (In Norwegian only)