North Sea safety fears as rig manning levels fall

The two leading offshore unions are warning that economic pressures in the North Sea are leading to safety being compromised. The OILC and MSF, which between them claim to have some 4,300 members among the 19,000 people who work offshore in the UK sector, are concerned that falling oil revenues have led to cutbacks in […]

The two leading offshore unions are warning that economic pressures in the North Sea are leading to safety being compromised.

The OILC and MSF, which between them claim to have some 4,300 members among the 19,000 people who work offshore in the UK sector, are concerned that falling oil revenues have led to cutbacks in manning levels and maintenance schedules.

`It’s exactly the same scenario as 1985/1986,’ said Jake Molloy, general secretary of the OILC.

The warning from the unions, which are trying to merge to become the sole offshore workers’ organisation, comes after a series of incidents have raised questions about offshore safety.

The latest occurred this week when the Health & Safety Executive received an anonymous letter from workers on BP Amoco’s Bruce platform claiming that impending manning cuts would leave the installation dangerously short of supervision, and calling on the HSE to investigate.

`We will not stand by and see our lives being put at risk to allow sheer greed to be applied to maximise profits,’ the letter said.

BP Amoco stressed that it would never introduce changes offshore that compromised safety. A company spokesman in Aberdeen said the reduction in the Bruce manning levels reflected the end of a large construction project on the platform and the offshore staff themselves had been left to determine where the cuts should fall.

`What disappoints us is that we believed we had reached a point where everybody was entirely comfortable,’ said the spokesman. `It apppears that, on the basis of one anonymous letter, we do not have consensus.’

He said the company would investigate the complaint and aim to arrive at a solution to the Bruce manning reductions that had the support of all involved.