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Systems approach demanded for lifeboat issues

It is unacceptable if individual faults render safety-critical equipment unusable, Magne Ognedal, director-general of the PSA, has told the petroleum industry. He was speaking at a meeting on 11 February about recent lifeboat problems on the Norwegian continental shelf.

“The individual operator and shipowner must therefore take a systems approach to lifeboats, with backup systems at every stage, which eliminates any doubt that they will work as required at all times and in all conditions,” Mr Ognedal said.

Held at the PSA, the meeting was called after the agency had received information which indicated that companies responsible for petroleum activities on the NCS have failed to take a sufficiently overarching systems approach to lifeboats with associated launch mechanisms.

The consequence of this deficiency is that individual faults could cause such craft to cease functioning.

“The industry and the authorities have worked on lifeboats for a number of years, and many improvements have been made,” Mr Ognedal noted.

“Confidence in such craft as a secure means of evacuation is being re-established. But the recent incidents on Veslefrikk and Kristin could create new doubts about their functionality in an evacuation.”

The PSA’s inquiry into these incidents has yet to be completed, but Mr Ognedal emphasised that the agency had information which made it important to issue a clear message to the industry right away.

“We must be assured that such systems function in an evacuation,” he said. “Based on our present information, we would accordingly ask operators and shipowners whether they take an adequate systems approach to lifeboats as a means of evacuation.”

He highlighted the need to systematise operating experience and lessons learnt across the industry to provide the required confidence that lifeboats will work at all times.

When weaknesses were found in lifeboats on NCS installations in 2005, references to maritime rules for such systems were removed from the HSE regulations governing Norwegian petroleum operations.

This means that all operators and shipowners must comply with the functional requirement to ensure that personnel can be quickly and efficiently evacuated at all times.

Mr Ognedal stressed at the meeting that mobile units covered by the maritime regulations pursuant to section 3 of the framework regulations must also comply with the functional requirement for safe evacuation under all conditions.