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Responsibilities of operators and licensees

Several international operators on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) have chosen in recent years to centralise operations at their head offices. The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has thereby seen a need to emphasise the formal duties which rest on companies large and small with a Norwegian presence.

These duties apply to all operators and licensees in Norway, regardless of their size.

Requirements applicable to the operator
The operator is the company responsible for day-to-day management of activities in a licence on behalf of the licensees.

It has an overall responsibility for ensuring that operations are conducted in an acceptable manner and in accordance with applicable Norwegian regulations.

Section 12 of the framework regulations stipulates that:

  • The operator shall have an organisation in Norway that, on an independent basis, is capable of ensuring that petroleum activities are carried out in accordance with the regulations.

In-house expertise
The regulations give operators great freedom to organise their operations as they wish – by using external resources to pursue activities, for example.

However, a company is not qualified to fulfil its duties pursuant to the health, safety and environmental regulations unless it has its own personnel with expertise in this area.

This means that the operator must have in-house expertise which allows it to undertake such activities as:

  • qualifying contractors who carry out work with significance for HSE
  • defining assignments for these contractors
  • determining the quality of the products and services delivered by the contractors
  • taking decisions required to ensure that overall operations are conducted in an acceptable manner
  • defining whether and in which areas verification activities (follow-up) are required in its own organisation and at the contractors
  • determining the verification basis for its overall petroleum activities
  • undertaking a coordinated assessment of the results of the verifications carried out
  • managing and coordinating the commitment of emergency response resources should hazards or accidents occur.

Boundaries between operators and external contractors
An operator can delegate certain assignments to external contractors.

Nevertheless, the operator itself must make assessments and take decisions at a strategic level – for third-line emergency response and communication of such circumstances to the media, for example. The requirements for supervising contractors also apply to following up consultants and other types of supplier.

In addition, the operator must keep the regulatory authorities continuously informed about developments in its operations, and which measures it intends to adopt.

A ceiling also exists here for the amount of work an operator can outsource to a contractor or supplier. The authorities will need a dialogue with and opportunities for direct and speedy clarification from responsible operator personnel when dealing with a number of considerations at a strategic level.

Which assignments an operator can outsource to a contractor or supplier will accordingly vary. A basic requirement is nevertheless than the operator must organise itself in a way which does not reduce its ability to fulfil its responsibilities pursuant to the regulations.

Verification of compliance
The operator has a particular duty to ensure that its overall operations are conducted in an acceptable manner and in compliance with the regulations which apply at any given time.

This means that the operator must ensure that everyone carrying out work for it complies with the requirements specified in the HSE regulations. This duty to verify compliance is additional to each player’s duty to comply with the regulations, and is a general and overriding supervisory obligation.

The operator’s management system must make it clear how the duty to verify compliance is discharged.

Requirements applicable to the licensee
A licensee must facilitate the operator’s work in the licence and verify that the latter is fulfilling its duties.

The licensee must also therefore be able to document that it has sufficient resources and expertise to determine the quality of the operator’s HSE management.

The duty to verify compliance also requires the licensee to supervise the operator in a systematic manner. The management system must make it clear how this obligation is met.

The licensee’s duty to verify compliance includes ensuring that:

  • the operator has a functioning management system
  • the operator has an adequately qualified organisation with sufficient capacity
  • the operator deals with problem areas and other conditions attracting the attention of the authorities
  • key applications are submitted to the authorities.

In addition, the licensee has

  • a duty to take action if it discovers that conditions fail to comply with the regulations
  • an independent duty to secure adequate information.

The licensee must take a risk-based approach to discharging its duty to verify compliance. This means that the licensee, depending on the factors involved in specific cases, may have a duty to conduct audits of the operator.