Unions estimate up to 1,400 workers may have been stranded in backlog of flights to and from oil rigs after Super Puma ditching


Hundreds of oil industry workers have been stranded offshore following a helicopter accident earlier in the week which has led to the grounding of much of the North Sea helicopter fleet.

Following a meeting on Thursday of industry officials and senior union safety reps from Unite and the RMT, the lead operators have resumed flights by 9 Super Puma helicopters which are deemed to be safe.

Investigations have revealed that Monday’s accident – in which another model of Super Puma was forced to ditch in the sea south of Shetland – was caused by a crack in the gearbox lubrication system.

It is the same fault which caused a similar model of Super Puma to ditch in the North Sea last May.

All 19 passengers and crew on board the aircraft which ditched on Monday were rescued safely.

In a statement after Thursday’s meeting the industry safety group, Step Change in Safety said: “Initial findings from the ongoing investigation into the ditching of G-CHCN on 22 October have revealed similarities with the G-REDW ditching on 10 May.

“The three main UK offshore helicopter operators, CHC, Bond and Bristow, took an aligned decision to impose a precautionary, temporary self-imposed suspension on all Super Puma aircraft.

“Based on new information in the investigation, the helicopter operators have together decided to return specific Super Puma aircraft to flight.

“The aircraft being returned to service, as of Friday 26 October 2012, include certain AS332L, L1 and L2 variants. The EC225 model remains suspended for the time being.”

Union officials estimate that as many as 1,400 workers – around 15% of the entire workforce in the UK sector of the North Sea – have been stranded on rigs and platforms because of safety concerns following the accident.

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