Unions say they have ‘grave concerns’ over failure to report recent problems with Super Puma engines to offshore safety group


North Sea oil industry unions are calling for urgent talks over the safety of helicopters ferrying hundreds of offshore workers to platforms and oil rigs after one of the aircraft was forced to ditch at sea on Thursday.

All 14 passengers and crew were rescued safely, after the Super Puma came down 25 miles off the coast of Aberdeen shortly after midday.

Nine men were flown to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary while the remaining five were taken to Aberdeen by lifeboat.

One man is being detained at the hospital; all the others have been discharged.

The helicopter, operated by Bond Offshore, had been on its way from Aberdeen to the offshore Maersk Resilient rig and the Ensco 102 rig.

The rig operator, Conoco Phillips, said the passengers were contractors on their way to support the drilling rigs.

The Super Puma is regarded as one of the workhorses of the North Sea and this is the first major emergency in three years.

The company last night responded to union calls for the fleet to be grounded, by saying further flights were suspended until further notice.

In April 2009, 16 people on board a similar aircraft – also operated by Bond – were killed after its gearbox failed and the helicopter crashed into the sea.

A Bond spokesman said: “A low pressure oil warning light came on and the helicopter made a controlled descent and landed in the North Sea. It didn’t crash.”

RMT union general secretary Bob Crow said the incident “shines the spotlight yet again on the issue of safety in our offshore industry”.

A Unite spokesman said they were ‘gravely concerned’ by the incident.  He said there had been problems with helicopter engines recently that have not been reported to the Helicopter Steering Group, an industry safety forum set up partly as a result of the 2009 Super Puma crash.

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