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Organisational and technical measures to reduce major accident risk

Safety and preparedness in the northern areas, response to the PSA's initiative to establish three professional forums to reduce major accident risk, availability of capping equipment and updated status from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) were the main items on the agenda at the Safety Forum meeting on 4 April this year.

In addition to these items, a mutual status update was given in a number of on-going issues. A follow-up status was given on two serious incidents and the program for the Safety Forum's annual conference on 12 June was adopted. Magne Ognedal, the PSA's long-time director general and head of the Safety Forum, accepted one last thank-you for his efforts. At the same time, the PSA's new director general, Anne Myhrvold, was welcomed as the new leader of the Safety Forum.

Cooperation for safety and preparedness in the north
HSE and preparedness in the northern areas has been a key issue in the Safety Forum for quite some time. See e.g. Minutes from the Safety Forum, 15 November 2012, in which Norwegian Oil and Gas presented a comprehensive review of HSE challenges in the northern areas. A tripartite cooperation regarding these challenges has been established in the form of a programme committee led by Norwegian Oil and Gas.

In the meeting on 4 April of this year, several of the Safety Forum's members expressed some frustration at the absence of concrete, tripartite projects in the wake of the programme committee. This was rejected by other members who noted that the committee's work was still in the formative stages. The head of the Safety Forum called for a comprehensive overview of topics that can be used as a basis for the continuing work to promote safety and preparedness in the northern areas, based on input from all parties.

Today, northern area issues are handled in many different forums and arenas, such as the IMO, which is working on polar codes and the Norwegian Shipowners' Association, which is preparing a northern area strategy. The expectation that Norwegian Oil and Gas will spearhead a comprehensive, tripartite cooperation which ensures the closing of essential knowledge gaps received broad support in the meeting.

The Safety Forum endorsed a suggestion that a list be prepared for prioritising, implementing and closing measures in the continuation of the tripartite work which has been initiated in the industry.

See also the article No shortcut to the far north in the PSA's publication Safety - Status and Signals 2012-2013. The topic will also be thoroughly explored at the Safety Forum's annual conference by representatives from Norwegian Oil and Gas, the Safety Forum and Statoil.   

Major accident risk – contractors' contribution
The role and responsibility of contractors in the work to reduce hydrocarbon leaks and well incidents in the industry was discussed in the Safety Forum meeting on 7 February this year. Studies carried out under the auspices of Trends in risk level in Norwegian petroleum activities (RNNP) have highlighted the contractor's role in the work to reduce risks – also at the industry level – related to drilling and wells. At the same time, general feedback from the contractors indicates that a number of the challenges are also industry challenges. They are of the opinion that the contributions of individual players in the contractor segment are limited.

This formed the background for the PSA's proposal to establish three new professional forums in the Safety Forum's last meeting:

  1. Professional forum for the contractors' engineering environments (new construction and modifications) on hydrocarbon leaks
  2. Professional forum for shipowners/drilling contractors on well control incidents and
  3. Professional forum for well service companies on well control incidents.

In the meeting of the Safety Forum on 4 April, the Federation of Norwegian Industries, the Norwegian Shipowners' Association and Norwegian Oil and Gas gave their preliminary response to the proposed arenas following internal discussions in the organisations.

The Federation of Norwegian Industries responded positively to the PSA's taking the necessary initiative to establish the Professional forum for the contractors' engineering environments (new construction and modifications) on hydrocarbon leaks. Norwegian Oil and Gas supports the intention of the need for more integrated cooperation, but needs more time and dialogue to discuss a concrete solution.

The Norwegian Shipowners' Association stated that they needed more time to discuss the issue with relevant environments in their own organisation before responding to the PSA.

Well capping equipment in the event of blowout
In late March, the PSA issued a circular informing the industry that emergency preparedness equipment for capping wells in the event of a blowout is now available. The head of the Safety Forum and the PSA director general referred to the debate in the wake of the blow-out on the Macondo field and the PSA's follow-up of the industry's work to put a preparedness solution in place as regards capping.

He emphasised that this important capping equipment is now available to the industry. He also said that, while the current regulations authorise the PSA to stipulate conditions in consents (make individual administrative decisions), if capping is not included in the applicant's preparedness, the regulations will be updated to further emphasise the requirement.

A process aimed at further clarifying the regulations in this area will be considered by the Regulatory Forum in the usual manner. The industry side noted that they were not in complete agreement with the PSA's understanding. However, it was agreed that any potential discord regarding the matter would be dealt with in separate meetings.
See details in the minutes (in Norwegian only).

IMO – the UN's organisation for shipping matters
The Norwegian Shipowners' Association's representative in the Safety Forum is heavily involved in the work taking place under the auspices of IMO, the UN's organisation for shipping matters.

The Safety Forum thus received a thorough introduction to IMO's history (established in 1958, 170 member countries) and organisation. IMO's objective includes contributing to improve safety at sea, reduced pollution from ship activity, maximum efficiency in navigation, preventing discrimination and unnecessary restrictions on ship traffic. IMO has a number of interfaces with the petroleum activities and a number of IMO issues are relevant for the petroleum industry. This includes e.g. issues related to the so-called "Polar code" and the "Ballast Water Convention".
See separate presentation and minutes for details (in Norwegian only).

Serious incidents – always on the agenda
Serious incidents is a permanent item on the Safety Forum's agenda. Under this heading the group is updated on the status of serious incidents that have occurred since the previous meeting, or the status as regards incidents that are under investigation.

In the 4 April meeting, pictures were presented along with an in-depth account of the lifting incident on Eldfisk 2/7 on 12 January. The incident is currently under investigation by the operator, ConocoPhillips. The widely publicised stability incident on Floatel Superior on 7 November in 2012 was once again reviewed for the Safety Forum members.

Reference was made to the PSA's notification of order to Floatel International in the wake of the investigation. See details from the PSA's website. As can be seen from the grounds listed for the order, Floatel International must take the initiative for a meeting on 15 May 2013 to present plans and methodology for complying with the orders. The deadline for complying with the orders and responding to the PSA has been set at 15 September 2013.

Dialogue and information
As stated initially, mutual status updates are provided on a number of relevant issues (see link to complete overview of on-going matters) in the Safety Forum meetings. Here the largest employer and employee organisations meet the PSA's director general and expert environments for debate and information. There is also a fixed item on the agenda for mutual sharing of information, see the last item of the minutes (in Norwegian only).