Information has emerged over the past five years which indicates that today’s lifeboats with associated launch arrangements on the Norwegian continental shelf have significant weaknesses and therefore fall below the level of safety which was assumed to exist.
These weaknesses relate to the structural strength of superstructure and hull, G forces acting on passengers, propulsion and load-carrying capacity/stability.
The consequence is that a large proportion of existing lifeboats with associated launch arrangements on the NCS fail to fulfil the requirement that it must be possible to evacuate personnel in the fastest and most effective manner.
In the PSA’s view, today’s evacuation equipment must be improved. It has now informed the Norwegian petroleum industry that work is being initiated with the aim of amending the current regulations.
Link to circular letter (in Norwegian only): Design of evacuation equipment and launch arrangements (pdf)
Changes to the regulations will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Regulatory Forum on 2 March 2011.
Plans call for the amendments to embrace all types of lifeboats in use on the NCS. The amended regulations will include a requirement that all such craft are measured from 2014 against the level of safety which corresponds to the DNV-OS-E406 standard for the design and testing of freefall lifeboats.
The Norsok R-002 standard will apply to launch arrangements.
A notification of order issued by the PSA to 22 operators and vessel owners in April 2010 required them to implement an overall assessment of evacuation equipment and to establish an action plan for improving possible deficiencies.
Subsequent investigations showed that a further effort was needed to ensure that the safety of evacuation equipment is raised to the highest possible level.
The regulatory development work which has now begun will help to boost the level of safety.
Magne Ognedal, director-general of the PSA, emphasises that continuous improvement is a fundamental principle for the petroleum industry.
“The companies undertake to base their operations on the best available technology, best practice and the best knowledge,” he points out.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen that the principle of continuous improvement hasn’t been practised sufficiently well with regard to evacuation equipment.”
Mr Ognedal notes that responsibility for conducting acceptable operations rests with the individual operator and vessel owner.
All players, regardless of possible future amendments to the regulations, have an independent duty to identify and implement the measures required on each of their installations or units to ensure opportunities for acceptable evacuation.
Read more: Lifeboats: Long fight for secure evacuation
Statoil has initiated extensive work to develop new lifeboats and, to the extent required, replace existing craft. It aims to complete this programme work in the course of 2014.
The PSA takes the view that the improvement efforts which need to be implemented by other players can be completed within the same time frame.
Mr Ognedal acclaims the Statoil lifeboat project as a good example of the way work can be pursued systematically to improve the level of safety in the event of an evacuation.
“The other players must now follow suit,” he comments. “We do not accept that different standards are applied for the level of safety provided by evacuation systems.
“Safety must be equally good on all installations or units on the NCS. All offshore workers deserve the best possible equipment.”
Øyvind Midttun, Deputy press contact
Email Oyvind.Midttun@ptil.no | Telephone +47 51 87 66 48