Norway’s regulatory authorities have not been interested in acting as if they are alone in the world. So working with other national regulators is a key activity.
The value of international collaboration between safety regulators has been apparent to the Norwegians ever since their oil adventure began in the 1960s. At that time, a number of nations around the world had long experience of safety in the petroleum business. It quickly became clear to Norway that it had to learn from the experience of others while ensuring that its own regulatory regime did not become different and special.
Norwegian government agencies are active and agenda-setting participants in many international safety-related fora today.
The North Sea Offshore Authorities’ Forum (NSOAF) is the closest of them in geographical terms. Bringing together safety regulators for activities in the North Sea basin, this body has pursued a number of projects over the years.
These have aimed to reduce differences between formal national requirements for technical, operational and educational aspects of the petroleum business in these waters.
The International Regulators’ Forum (IRF) occupies a central position in the global arena, bringing together Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom and United States.
This organisation has also appointed working parties to deal with issues of shared interest. It is currently assessing whether common criteria can be defi ned for reporting offshore incidents.Such a solution would be important for the ability to say something about how member countries compare in terms of risk level. The IRF has also set up a working party to look at common international challenges related to cranes and lifting operations.
Every second or third year, the forum organises a conference for safety regulators worldwide and for industry delegates to discuss relevant issues and possible solutions to them.
Another multinational collaboration is the International Committee on Regulatory Research and Development (Icrard), established in 1994.
This body serves as an arena for information sharing and experience transfer within HSE research in the petroleum industry.
Its aim is to spread knowledge of the work being done so that similar activities do not necessarily need to be repeated in other countries.
Other international collaborative organisations
The PSA has participated actively in the Offshore Mechanical Handling Equipment Committee (OMHEC) together with government agencies in other North Sea countries. Dedicated to improving safety in crane and lifting operations, this body has ensured the effective development of guidance documents for use by the industry.
The PSA is also an active member of the European Diving Technology Committee (EDTC). Common frameworks for specifying the educational qualifications of diving personnel are a visible result of this work. Work is currently under way on a harmonisation with the official EU system in order to secure formal recognition of the organisation’s work.
Through bilateral collaboration with other north European offshore regulators, the PSA helps to respond at a professional level to the internationalisation of the industry in many areas. This is achieved through the exchange of knowledge and experience.
Bilateral collaboration with the UK
The framework agreement on cross-boundary petroleum collaboration between the UK and Norwegian authorities was signed in April 2005. It has since been amplified through specific agreements on safety and the working environment between the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the PSA.
Agreements have been reached for the Blane and Enoch boundary fields and the Langeled South gas pipeline, where construction began in 2005. These accords regulate collaboration on supervising operators, fields and installations as well as the exchange of safety-related information.
Corresponding deals have been concluded under the treaties which govern the other fields and transport systems crossing the UK-Norwegian boundary. The PSA and the British regulators regularly conduct joint audits and supervision of the players in line with the intentions of these agreements. Together with the PSA, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion also collaborates with the British HSE through the special working group (SWG).
This meets twice a year to exchange information on legislation and regulatory strategy in the two countries, experience from the activity, and developments in the EU area which are significant for regulation and the exercise of regulatory authority.
The framework provided by the agreement and the SWG lays the basis for operational collaboration over supervision. This aims to swap experience and facilitate joint activities in specific areas.
Bilateral collaboration with Russia in the far north
The Norwegian government’s policy is that petroleum activities in the Barents and Norwegian Seas will lead the world for oil spill response and environmental monitoring. This goal is pursued on Norway’s continental shelf through the existing health, safety and environmental regulations, which also provide the overall framework for conducting fully acceptable operations in these waters.
Russia now faces major challenges in developing oil and gas activities in the far north. Secure development, operation and not least transport of oil and gas products from this area to continental Europe will call for many simultaneously activities in the Russian sector which could be significant for Norway and its coast.
The government accordingly wants Norway to participate actively in the development of far northern petroleum operations in cooperation with the Russians. This collaboration will be pursued in various fora and in different ways.
Collaboration over HSE was included in the declaration on energy cooperation issued by the Norwegian and Russian prime ministers in June 2005.
On that basis, the PSA will be strengthening cooperation with its opposite numbers in Russia. It has previously cooperated with the Russian authorities through the Boris project, which helped to build good relations and contributed to an exchange of safety-related experience.