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  • #61

    EC175 Finally Arrives Just as Civil Helicopter Market Slows

    Another blue sky day in Marseille. No clouds mar the horizon, but a stiff breeze whips across the airfield, snapping out the bright orange safety tags attached to the helicopter’s rotorblades. The yellow-liveried aircraft – and its sister ship parked inside the nearby hangar – is an EC175; “the first brand-new product in more than a decade” for manufacturer Airbus Helicopters.

    Accordingly, the handover event on 11 December – nearly five years to the day since first flight and two years later than planned – marked a hugely important step for the airframer.

    Inside the hangar it was all smiles and handshakes. Assembly line workers and programme chiefs past and present mingled with representatives from the customer Noordzee Helikopters Vlaanderen (NHV), including its pilots, technicians and even financiers.

    ​NHV's new EC175

    After the usual round of speeches, Eric Van Hal, the boss of NHV, and Guillaume Faury, his counterpart at Airbus Helicopters, posed for photographs in front of one EC175. And, as is custom, Van Hal signed a page of a thick, lectern-perched tome the airframer keeps specially for these occasions. His message: “First step into a new exciting chapter in our story.”

    For Ostend-headquartered NHV, the delivery should mark the beginning of an ambitious plan, targeting growth of around 25-30% in 2015 alone. It has orders for 16 of the new-generation rotorcraft in place, and intends to have taken at least half by the end of the coming year. Van Hal views the 7.5t EC175 – which will see its maximum take-off weight rise to 7.8t by 2016, offering more payload or range – as the perfect platform for around 80% of missions in the North Sea. With capacity for 16 passengers, he thinks it will take work away from heavier helicopters like the EC225, which although transports three more people, also carries at least an additional tonne of empty weight, according to the manufacturer’s figures.

    “Everybody is always looking for something bigger, it’s a typical male thing,” says Van Hal. “But the oil companies are listening to what we are saying, that [the EC175] is more modern, safer and cheaper.”

    Such is Van Hal’s confidence in the EC175 that NHV intends to use it to open a new base in Aberdeen in mid-2015, despite having yet to secure any contracts to operate from the Scottish site.

    Although it received its first helicopters later than planned, Van Hal remains realistic about the situation. “If you are launch customer for a new product then you know there will be delays. It was longer than we thought, but we had good reassurances from Guillaume [Faury],” he says.

    The delay, however, did mean that any plans NHV had for growth in 2014 were put on ice. And while declining to give details, Van Hal indicates that a compromise agreement on additional costs incurred has been reached with Airbus Helicopters.

    Van Hal was likely referring to NHV when he talked about a “new exciting chapter”, but his words could equally apply to the manufacturer as well as the operator.

    For Airbus Helicopters, beginning the delivery phase of the EC175 programme is a crucial step. A two-year delay – caused by a complex certification process, internal resource issues and a change of leadership at the top of the company – is not unheard of, but nonetheless problematic. Sales have been modest in the interim, particularly against the rival AgustaWestland AW189.

    And, in the meantime, the previously benign outlook for commercial helicopter sales – once as cloudless as the Marseille skies – seems overcast.

    In fact, Faury warned an Airbus Group investor conference the day before the handover of the EC175 that in 2014 the civil and parapublic market had experienced an unexpected “downturn” of around 15-20% against 2013, and that “we are considering this a trend for the next one to two years”.

    What this means, he says, is that “the former generation [of helicopters], the ones which are the cash cows today, are bringing less profitability than we were expecting”. As a consequence, the current “phase of deep renewal” of its product line assumes ever-greater importance.

    But even then, its next-generation helicopters are not immune from short-term market volatility. For instance, Russian airline and helicopter operator UTair is a big customer for the EC175, with 15 firm orders and 15 options. Airbus Helicopters hopes to deliver the first of these before the end of 2014, but with the rouble tanking and Russian economic growth following suit, it has no clarity on the pace of further deliveries. Faury describes the situation in Russia as “fast evolving”, and says the manufacturer is in regular contact with the operator “to find appropriate delivery dates for them”.

    Assuming the UTair handover goes ahead, Airbus Helicopters will still meet its target of three deliveries in 2014 – albeit to two operators rather than three as initially planned, as Héli-Union had pushed its initial example into 2015.

    And although oil and gas customers are reining in expenditure on the back of tumbling crude prices, Faury sees the operating cost advantages presented by the EC175 as offering “an opportunity to address the new challenges in the oil and gas market”.

    But with total orders only amounting to 64 helicopters – of which only around two-thirds are firm – the airframer needs to get selling, or planned rate rises will have depleted the EC175’s backlog by 2017.

    There is the temptation to view first delivery as the end of the story, but ensuring the longevity of the programme is a “new exciting chapter” all of its own.


    • #62

      Oil and Gas Firms may Have to Charter Boats or Bigger Helicopters after EU Ruling

      Oil and gas firms may have to charter boats or hire bigger helicopters to accommodate overweight workers after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided obese people can be classed as disabled.

      Businesses are being warned to expect widespread and expensive consequences after law chiefs in Luxembourg ruled that being overweight qualifies as a disability.

      The judgment follows the sacking of Karsten Kaltoft, a 25-stone childminder from Denmark.

      The council he worked for said it was making redundancies based on a decrease in the number of youngsters who required childminding, and did not disclose whether Mr Kaltoft’s size played any part in its decision to let him go.

      Mr Kaltoft reportedly needed help tying his shoelaces and struggled with physical tasks.

      The ECJ’s ruling is binding in all EU member states and could offer crucial protection to offshore workers who fall foul of new helicopter safety legislation limiting the size of people travelling to North Sea platforms.

      Industry body Oil and Gas UK has been closely watching the case in case there are implications for offshore firms.

      They will now have to find ways of accommodating overweight workers so they are not at a disadvantage compared with slimmer colleagues.

      Neil Fraser, employment law partner at north-east law firm Aberdein Considine, said: “With obesity on the increase, the cost to the state and private enterprise of fat rights could be frightening.

      “The consequences of formal legal rights and protections for the obese could be widespread and expensive.”

      The Civil Aviation Authority has already ruled that oil workers who cannot fit through a helicopter’s emergency window while in a survival suit will not fly after April 2015.

      But the regulator has insisted options will be explored to avoid any negative impact.

      Kirk Tudhope, employment law partner at Aberdeen law firm Ledingham Chalmers, said: “Although this is clearly an issue for industries where a reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required, it is difficult to identify any employers who may not be adversely affected by obesity in the workforce.”

      Pamela Struth, human resources (HR) expert at Aberdeen HR, health and safety and employment-law firm Empire, said: “The offshore industry has already received new rules this year in relation to safety requirements for helicopter passengers.

      “This ruling by the ECJ may provide another hurdle for such employers.”


      • #63

        Bond Super Puma Suffers Lightning Strike

        An Airbus EC225 Super Puma operated by Bond helicopters has been struck by lightning while en-route to an offshore platform in the North Sea. The aircraft was carrying eleven passengers and two crew when the incident occurred off the Aberdeen coast.

        A spokesman for the company confirmed that the helicopter had returned to Aberdeen airport after being struck by lighting.

        A Bond Super Puma similar to the one which was recently struck by lightning

        Bond did not release details of which rig the Puma was flying to.

        The helicopter has been taken out of service to allow engineers to examine it for damage.

        Other North Sea incidents involving lightning strikes include:
        • A helicopter travelling to the Brae Alpha oil rig ditched in the North Sea on January 19, 1995, after it was struck by lightning that caused severe damage to the tail rotor. Everyone on board the Bristow flight, which was carrying 16 oil workers from Aberdeen, was rescued.
        • Air accident investigators also ruled that a lightning strike was a factor in a North Sea helicopter tragedy off the coast of Norwich on July 16, 2002. All nine people on board the Bristow-operated Sikorsky S-76A died.
        Research carried out by the Met Office last year revealed that helicopters could trigger lightning strikes.

        Experts believe this happens when the aircraft acquires a negative charge during flight and flies close to a positively charged cloud.

        The study showed these incidents are usually reported over the North Sea between October through to the end of March.

        Pilots involved in past incidents told researchers they had no prior weather warnings for the area where their helicopters got hit. This led weather experts to believe that the helicopters themselves could trigger lightning.

        Improvements in aircraft design mean all helicopters are expected to survive lightning strikes these days, according to experts.


        • #64
          Weather Warning: North Sea Flights Likely to be Interrupted over Weekend

          North Sea helicopter flights are likely to be interrupted over the weekend as the UK prepares to receive two strong storms over the coming days:

          Strong storms are likely to hit Scotland by Saturday

          Graphic of approaching storm


          • #65

            North Sea Oil Workers to be Measured ahead of New Helicopter Safety Rules

            Offshore workers will be measured before travelling by helicopter to North Sea oil platforms from next month.

            Industry safety group Step Change in Safety (SCS) said medics would begin measuring helicopter passengers at onshore medical centres and offshore platforms in February.

            Plans seat offshore workers by size were announced by SCS in October 2014.

            “Extra broad” passengers with a shoulder width of more than 22in will have to sit in a seat near an appropriately-sized window from April.

            The move follows a review of helicopter safety by the Civil Aviation Authority which raised concerns about the about larger passengers’ ability to escape from helicopters in emergencies.

            Les Linklater, Step Change in Safety’s executive director, said: "This strategy is the simplest and most effective way to make sure helicopter passengers are measured correctly, and that passengers are transported safely to and from offshore installations.

            "The passenger size working group has worked with the CAA and has been informed by Dr Arthur Stewart, an expert at the Robert Gordon University.

            “This measurement strategy marks the evolution of helicopter safety and is another major step towards ensuring the UK is the safest oil province in the world to work in.”


            • #66

              CHC to Close North Denes

              CHC Helicopter has entered into consultation with staff over proposals to close its base on North Denes in Great Yarmouth. The move, which follows the loss of a major contract with Perenco, places a shadow over the future of about 30 staff in the town.

              A spokesman for the company said the end of the Perenco contract on March 31 would render the CHC-owned base “economically unviable” although a timetable for the likely closure would be determined through the consultation.

              She said the consultation would also consider the possibilities for relocating staff to other CHC sites.

              A CHC AW139 seen at the operator's North Denes base in Great Yarmouth

              Yarmouth council leader Trevor Wainwright described the news as a “blow” for the borough and said he was seeking a meeting with CHC management.

              “We don’t want to see them leave the town,” he said.

              Staff had been warned before Christmas that all options concerning the North Denes site were on the table following Perenco’s decision to move from its base in Yarmouth to a new location in Norwich.

              When the future of the heliport came under threat in 2011 a campaign to save it was carried out by the borough council.

              It was pointed out that the tens of thousands of people who used the Caister Road terminal each year to reach rigs in the North Sea provided a drip-down boost for the local economy.

              Added confidence in the future of the base was provided in 2013 when CHC invested £300,000 in improved customer facilities.

              At that time Simon Gray, chief executive officer of East of England Energy Group, formally opened the refurbished terminal and the project was hailed for demonstrating CHC’s commitment to long-term investment in the base .


              • #67

                New Co-chair of HSSG Revealed

                Industry safety group Step Change in Safety has announced CHC Helicopters West North Sea regional director, Mark Abbey, will take to the helm of its Helicopter Safety Steering Group (HSSG) as its new co-chair.

                Mr Abbey will join Dave Dickson, vice president of safety and operational risk for BP North Sea, the group’s operator co-chair.

                He sat down with Energy Voice in an exclusive interview where he spoke about the successes already made and the challenges still faced to ensure confidence in helicopter safety.

                Mark Abbey the new co-chair of HSSG​

                He succeeds Tim Glasspool of Bristow Helicopters.

                Already a member of the HSSG since 2013, he will also join the Step Change leadership team.

                He said:“Every day, CHC and our industry carry thousands of offshore workers safely to and from their remote workplaces.
                “The most important consideration for every company serving the North Sea offshore industry is safety, all of the time and in every activity.

                “We will expand on the HSSG’s great work focusing on safety and further improving the experience of passengers.”
                Earlier this year, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said improvements have been made to offshore helicopter flights, but there is still more to be done.

                The body said many of the safety objectives it had set last year had already been met such as emergency breathing systems (EBS) and cancelling flights in the most extreme sea conditions.

                Mr Abbey said the work done on EBS had illustrated exactly what can be achieved by the HSSG.

                Les Linklater, executive director of Step Change in Safety, said, “We are fortunate to have Mark as a co-chair of HSSG. His extensive experience coupled with his determination and passion to improve the passenger experience – from the terminal to the tea shack – will be valuable to the HSSG and to the offshore workforce.

                “Tim Glasspool has made an outstanding contribution to the group. Both he and Mark show unwavering commitment to keeping the workforce safe, and I look forward to Mark’s increased involvement with the HSSG.”


                • #68

                  Falck Safety Services Offering Passenger Measurements

                  The survival and health and safety training firm, Falck, which has training centres in Aberdeen and Teesside, will provide measurement services at both centres, ahead of new UK Civil Aviation Authority requirements which come into effect in April. The new regulation will affect helicopter passengers travelling to and from offshore installations.

                  The measurement strategy which was first announced by Step Change in Safety in October 2014 following a review by the CAA, states that all passengers travelling offshore by helicopter will be required to sit in a seat where the nearest push-out emergency exit window is compatible with their body size.

                  As part of the new regulations, all helicopter passengers will now be measured by the width of their shoulders by specifically-trained trainers and medics, and those with a shoulder width of more than 55.9cm (22”) will be classed as extra broad (XBR), and will have to sit in helicopter seat next a window compatible with their shoulder size. Those with a shoulder width of 55.9cm or less will be classed as regular.

                  Industry group, Step Change in Safety, has worked with the Passenger Size Work group and Dr Arthur Stewart, an expert on anthropometry at Robert Gordon University, to create the strategy and training based on a passenger’s shoulder width, which has been found to be the most reliable and appropriate measure of body size.

                  Falck, which globally delivers over 200 safety and survival training courses to more than 340,000 people each year, will have 31 trainers across both centres on hand to carry out measurements, as well as offering on-site measurement solutions to clients if required.

                  Managing director of Falck Safety Services UK, Colin Leyden, said: “Since the measurement strategy announcement, Falck Safety Services has proactively worked with the appropriate groups to ensure we are fully qualified to provide the highest quality of training in time to help meet the deadlines. As a firm that lives and breathes safety, it is our duty to ensure we have the products and capacity available to help our customers comply with these new requirements on time.

                  “The new helicopter safety regulations means more than 60,000 offshore workers are in need of measurement, and we plan to work closely with our clients to ensure their employees can continue to travel safely to and from offshore installations. As from today, we are able to conduct the bideltoid measurements at both our UK sites, as well as offering to conduct measurements for clients on-site and delivering ‘train the measurer’ services which means customers can conduct the measurement internally, if required.”


                  • #69

                    Ban Proposed on Helicopters Flying over Bridge of Don

                    Calls are being made to put a stop to offshore helicopters flying over a densely populated suburb of Aberdeen.

                    Councillor John Reynolds, the city’s deputy provost, will put forward a motion at a meeting of full council on Wednesday, asking for the aircraft to be banned from flying over Bridge of Don.

                    The plea comes amid fears a helicopter could run into trouble and crash into houses in the area.

                    The Bridge of Don in Aberdeen

                    In addition, Mr Reynolds also claims residents are fed up of the noise overhead, as helicopters travel from Dyce to the North Sea regularly throughout the day.

                    Mr Reynolds said: “The reasoning behind the motion is twofold.

                    “The safety aspect is a major concern for many residents following the various tragedies that have happened both on land and at sea.

                    “So long as they clear current housing and planned developments, I’ll be happy.”

                    He added: “The other is to do with the noise aspect of helicopters flying for anything up to 16 hours a day over residential areas.

                    “Environmental Health is unable to do anything about the noise as it puts responsibility firmly in the hands of the Civil Aviation Authority and National Air Traffic Services.

                    “The operators have to take the routes dictated by those two organisations.”


                    • #70

                      The "Great Betrayal" — As Shell Replaces Helicopter Flights with New Offshore Vessel

                      A new maintenance support ship for Shell’s southern North Sea gas operations made its first appearance in UK waters at the weekend.

                      Shell said the vessel, named Kroonborg, would change the way the company and partner Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM) operated more than 50 gas producing platforms.

                      The MV Kroonborg will transport offshore workers who were previously flown by helicopter

                      It is expected to reduce the cost of operating smaller gas fields, which are becoming increasingly prevalent, by improving the productivity and safety of maintenance engineers.

                      The Kroonberg, owned by Dutch company Royal Wagenborg, can carry up to 60 workers who would previously have travelled by helicopter and stayed on platforms for two weeks at a time.

                      Shell said it combined the capabilities of a supply boat – carrying food and equipment – and standby vessel, which provides support in an emergency).

                      It will also transport workers directly to gas platforms, potentially reducing by 25% the number of helicopter flights required.

                      The new vessel will support up to three platforms at a time and allow staff to move between platforms when jobs are complete, which – along with a fully-equipped workshop on board – is expected to increase the number of productive man-hours offshore by 20%.

                      Shell and NAM project leader Haije Stigter said: “It’s crucial, particularly in a low oil price environment, to keep an eye on the cost of operating smaller gas fields in the southern North Sea.

                      “The Kroonborg will make a big difference by allowing us to use manpower and equipment more efficiently.”

                      The new ship was shown off to Shell and NAM staff at an open day in Great Yarmouth on Saturday. It will start work in the Dutch and UK southern North Sea within weeks.

                      Lanuching of the MV Kroonborg: A threat to helicopter operators?



                      • #71

                        Peterhead to House North Sea Maritime Firefighting Team

                        Fire brigade chiefs want to base a specialist maritime unit at a top fishing port.

                        Plans are being drawn up to make Peterhead the HQ for highly-trained crews who would use boats and even helicopters to respond to incidents in the North Sea.

                        They would be able to go to the aid of trawlers, cargo boats and other shipping – and be capable of dealing with incidents in and around the northern isles.

                        The Scottish Fire and rescue Service and Scottish Government are working together on the project and favour Peterhead because of its location and the ongoing investment in the port.

                        The plans have not been finalised and no site for the new maritime response unit has been picked yet.

                        But Aberdeenshire fire and rescue station manager David Meldrum said he was confident the port would be selected for the tole.

                        He added: “What we’re proposing for Peterhead is a maritime response unit and that would mean our crews can go and tackle incidents that occur offshore.

                        “For Peterhead and the north-east of Scotland we could provide further support to more and more areas as part of the maritime response, travelling by helicopter or boat with equipment.

                        “The plan is across north-east of Scotland to get more response to areas, to specifically island areas, and enhancing resources for Peterhead.

                        “It is just part of a national review into specialist equipment. This is something that is getting looked at nationally.”

                        Last night, north-east safety groups and Peterhead’s harbour authority welcomed the prospect of the new unit being based in the town.

                        Sandy Allan, chairman of the Buchan Community Safety Group, said: “If it is looking at boat and fishing fires then Peterhead is probably the ideal place to have it based.

                        “Technology has moved on and this is probably something that has been needed for a long time, it is good to see it finally coming on board.

                        “There has certainly been a few incidents over the last few years, mostly on harbours.

                        “From a Peterhead point of view it is something probably long overdue. And it is additional resources that can be used for other things.”

                        Peterhead Port Authority’s chief executive, John Wallace, said: “There is no question about that it is to be welcomed. Peterhead would co-operate with anything like that because safety is in everyone’s interests.

                        “We’d be delighted to see it. Minutes can seem like hours out there when you are waiting on emergency services. We’re happy to be a part of it.”

                        The port’s harbour master, John Forman, said fishing crews currently had to do their best to tackle onboard fires on their own.

                        He added: “Emergency response teams will be more than welcomed in this area, your coastguard agencies have been cut back and cut back over the years and a response unit in this area would be a step in the right direction. We would welcome it.”


                        • #72

                          Cut Backs in 'Home Comforts' for North Sea Oil Workers

                          Hundreds of offshore workers have been stripped of access to Sky TV and fear further 'home comforts' are in the firing line as oil prices remain low.

                          Operator Talisman Sinopec revealed that it has replaced the paid-for satellite broadcaster with Freeview and BT Sport TV packages across its North Sea installations.

                          The move is expected to save the company 600,000 pounds a year. But it means offshore employees will no longer have access to premium channels while on their downtime.

                          The cost cutting exercise comes as hundreds of oil and gas jobs are axed as a result of rising production costs and plunging Brent crude prices.

                          Talisman Sinopec - which has its North Sea base in Aberdeen - said that the recent drop in the price of oil had prompted the firm to look at other ways to save money in non-essential areas.

                          A spokeswoman for Talisman said: "We are not immune to those challenges and are taking appropriate actions to tackle them.

                          "As part of our ongoing review of reducing spend, we have replaced Sky TV with Freeview and BT Sport on our offshore sites which represents a saving of 600,000 pounds per year.

                          "We are shaping the future direction of our business - and industry - to protect our long-term sustainability within the sector."

                          Jake Molloy, regional organiser for RMT union, said: "Talisman is the first but they will not be the last.

                          "It is all part of cost efficiency, but there are better ways to improve cost efficiency than removing welfare elements in a difficult work environment."

                          Meanwhile, a new study by Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Oil & Gas UK has found average North Sea employee's weight has gone from 12 to more than 14 stone today over the last 30 years.

                          Meanwhile, a new study has found offshore workers are significantly taller, heavier and broader than they were 30 years ago.

                          Researchers at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in collaboration with Oil & Gas UK found that male offshore oil and gas workers are now on average almost 19 per cent heavier and two per cent taller than they were in 1985.

                          The average height is now 5ft 10in and the average weight 14st 3lb, around 14 per cent heavier than the general male population.

                          The findings are based on 3D scans of a representative sample of 588 male offshore workers.

                          A total of 26 measures were extracted, including shoulder width, chest girth, neck girth, and a series of volumetric measurements of the arm, leg and torso.

                          The scans revealed that workers' waistlines had grown 17 per cent in 30 years with wrist circumferences up 11 per cent.

                          Study findings will be invaluable to those designing offshore safety equipment, survival clothing and space and accommodation requirements offshore.

                          It also comes just weeks before new safety guidance takes effect which will ban any workers whose shoulder circumference exceeds 22 inches from sitting next to a helicopter's push-out windows, which are used as exits if the aircraft ditches.

                          The measurement, which replaced plans for controversial weight limits, will take effect from April 1.


                          • #73

                            Forties Echo Evacuated

                            Offshore workers evacuated from North Sea after a supply vessel collides with platform.

                            Fifteen men have been airlifted from Apache Corporation’s Forties Echo facility after a ship collided with the platform on Monday morning.

                            The Forties Echo platform which was struck by a vessel today

                            The vessel, named the Sea Falcon, is believed to have been offloading cargo when the accident occurred. Nobody is believed to have been injured.

                            A spokesman for Aberdeen Coastguard said: “The Sea Falcon was alongside offloading supplies and for whatever reason it collided with it. They took 15 people off as a precaution because they had a helicopter in the area. As far as we are aware they are still down-manned.”

                            Forties Echo is a wellhead platform around 110 miles north east of Aberdeen. Production in the Forties field began in 1975, making it one of the earliest North Sea developments.


                            • #74

                              Shells Withdraws from Scatsta Airport Shetland

                              Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has called on Shell to explain its sudden change in safety policy after the oil company confirmed it is withdrawing from Scatsta airport later this year.

                              The LibDem politician said the move sent out the wrong message in the wake of numerous helicopter incidents in the north of Scotland over recent years.

                              On Wednesday, Shell said that as of October it would transfer oil workers by helicopter directly from Aberdeen to its oil installations in the northern North Sea.

                              The move leaves a question mark over the future of the Integrated Aviation Consortium, which also includes CNR, BP, Petrofac and BP Sullom Voe.

                              A five-year deal to provide helicopter services from Scatsta was awarded to Bristow Helicopters in October 2010. The contract comes to an end later this year.

                              Scott said he would "immediately be seeking an explanation" from Shell for the move.

                              "This seems to be a reversal of the policy the oil industry said they were going to follow after the many incidents with helicopters," he said.

                              "I had expected them to use more fixed wings for the longer leg of journeys and then use helicopters for the shorter part, such as from Scatsta to the oil rigs.

                              "I am very concerned by this, both from the point of view of the arguments the workforce has been making but also potentially losing business from Shetland. This is a terrible announcement.

                              "I also want to be reassured by BP and the other partners that their operations in Shetland will continue."

                              RMT regional organiser Jack Molloy said oil workers would face longer helicopter flights with some apprehension but would be relieved to be able to get home quicker.

                              In a short statement issued on Wednesday afternoon Shell said that flying its workers directly from Aberdeen rather than Scatsta would help reduce operational cost.

                              A company spokeswoman said: "Shell can confirm that it is withdrawing from the Integrated Aviation Consortium.

                              "From October 2015, offshore workers will travel to Shell's operations in the northern North Sea direct from Aberdeen on helicopters operated by CHC Helicopters.

                              "The move will improve operational efficiency and is part of a number of initiatives that Shell is actively pursuing to improve the competitive performance of the business."

                              BP said the company was aware of Shell's move and had no further comment to make.


                              • #75

                                CAA To Introduce New Offshore Regulations

                                Regulators have proposed strict new safety rules for helicopters flying to unmanned oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.

                                The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) wants to tighten up procedures for trips to the 116 installations which are normally unattended offshore.

                                The newly-announced plans would mean that helicopters would only be able to go to such platforms if they have full capability to fly safely on one engine following loss of power of its other engine.

                                The new initiative being led by the CAA may see the installation of automatic fire fighting systems

                                They would also be equipped with fully crashworthy systems to reduce the risk of fire, while changes would be made to helidecks, such as the fitting of automatic fire fighting systems.

                                The changes – which are to be taken forward on a “very short timescale” – follows a raft of new safety procedures introduced in the wake of a series of North Sea helicopter crashes in recent years.

                                CAA safety director Mark Swan said: “The safety of the offshore flying has increased considerably over the past year.

                                “One area we want to focus on specifically is flights to unattended installations which, because there may be no one on the rig to assist following an accident, don’t have the same level of safety as manned rigs.

                                “We will therefore progress this work as a priority to ensure offshore workers flying to these installations have the highest levels of safety possible.”

                                A spokesman for the pilots’ union Balpa welcomed the plans.

                                “Balpa supports the CAA safety recommendations for unattended installations in the North Sea,” he said.

                                “In particular, the CAA have been trying for some time to mandate automatic fire-fighting systems on unattended installations.

                                “We hope that now happens; and happens quickly.”

                                Robert Paterson, health and safety director with Oil and Gas UK, said: “Oil and Gas UK is pleased to see that the Civil Aviation Authority is proposing a new and constructive but pragmatic approach to safe helicopter operations at normally unattended installation helidecks in a number of different ways, such as ensuring aircraft used have appropriate systems and capabilities.

                                “OGUK is fully supportive of setting up a joint industry working group to review the Cranfield Report and the CAA proposals.

                                “Much has been done by industry to ensure helicopter travel for our offshore workforce is as safe as possible and therefore it also makes sense to look at a range of different measures to further enhance the safety of those flying to normally unintended offshore installations in the North Sea.”


                                • #76

                                  CAA Announces Plans for Certification of Offshore Helidecks

                                  Proposals for how the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) could take on the safety certification and approval of offshore helidecks, raising safety levels through a CAA-directed scheme that would have powers to stop flights to helidecks that fail to meet the minimum standards, were announced today as part of a consultation on the area.

                                  The CAA’s review of offshore helicopter operations published in February 2014 highlighted that the CAA’s involvement in an enhanced certification process would raise safety levels for the 300 plus helidecks in UK waters.

                                  In the consultation the CAA asks for views on how the existing system administered on behalf of the offshore helicopter operators could be transferred to a legally binding one and how the new system could be run with the minimum of bureaucracy, for example by work being undertaken by organisations accredited and overseen by the CAA.

                                  CAA Safety and Airspace Director Mark Swan said: “The oil and gas industry puts considerable effort into maintaining safe helidecks but in cases where a helideck doesn’t meet safety standards there is currently no legal enforcement process to either shut it down or demand improvements. The safety of offshore workers is our absolute priority so we’ve launched a consultation that would see us introduce legally binding safety standards for the 300 plus helidecks in UK waters.”

                                  The proposals are primarily aimed at addressing the causes of accidents to prevent them happening, a policy that the CAA and its Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG) has followed throughout its work in the area.

                                  The consultation, which closes on 24th July 2015, is at

                                  The announcement is the latest move to improve offshore helicopter safety following the CAA’s comprehensive review of offshore helicopter operations published in February 2014.

                                  Other actions already introduced include:
                                  • Stopping flights over the most extreme sea conditions.
                                  • Ensuring every passenger on an offshore helicopter flight is equipped with new improved Emergency Breathing System (EBS) ahead of schedule.
                                  • Standardisation of pilot training, particularly for the use of complex automated systems on helicopters and the associated operating procedures.
                                  • Establishing a new top level group to drive change, the Offshore Helicopter Safety Action Group (OHSAG) that includes unions, industry and the CAA.

                                  The majority of the remaining work is aimed at preventing an accident from occurring. Some of these, such as helicopter design, are longer term projects but the CAA and OHSAG will be maintaining pressure on the organisations responsible for change to ensure the safety improvements are delivered as soon as possible.


                                  • #77

                                    North Sea Helicopter Pilots Threaten Strike

                                    Pilots flying helicopters in the North Sea are threatening to go on strike after two companies announced job losses in the wake of the oil price collapse.

                                    The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said that it there had been an “overwhelming call” for the union to ballot its members for industrial action at a meeting in Aberdeen on Thursday evening, which it said was attended by more than a third of the helicopters pilots that work in the North Sea.

                                    Bristow Helicopters is to cut 130 jobs - of which as many as 66 will be pilots - and CHC Scotia plans to shed 50 jobs. Half of the roles lost at CHC will be among pilots.