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PSA investigates lifeboat incidents

The Petroleum Safety Authority Norway has launched an investigation following several incidents related to the replacement of lifeboats on the Kristin and Veslefrikk fields.

On 30 December 2008, the PSA was made aware that it had not been possible to release a freefall lifeboat on the Veslefrikk B (VFB) platform in the North Sea.

This problem emerged when the craft was to be launched in order to make space for a replacement. The release hook was lubricated and moved a number of times until it functioned.

Veslefrikk’s safety representative service called on 2 January for the freefall craft to be taken out of service and for staffing to be reduced to conventional lifeboat capacity on the A platform. The replacement of freefall craft on VFB continued, and testing was carried out. Hook release problems with the new lifeboats when fully laden were identified early on 7 January.

On the same day, operator StatoilHydro notified the PSA that staffing on Kristin in the Norwegian Sea was to be reduced to the minimum safety level.This installation changed to new freefall lifeboats of the same type as on VFB in September, and had experienced problems with the release hook on 12 December. The latter incident was first reported to the PSA by StatoilHydro on 7 January.

The PSA takes a serious view of the new revelations of faults and deficiencies in evacuation equipment, and the fresh uncertainty raised about the performance of these products.

Based on the information available to the PSA today, the agency has found it necessary to launch its own investigation. The inquiry team’s mandate includes clarifying all relevant conditions relating to the latest lifeboat incidents, and assessing management and risk management aspects.

That assessment will cover functional specifications, ordering, design, and procedures for testing, qualifying and maintaining components and systems affected by lifeboat replacement on Kristin and Veslefrikk.

The inquiry is directed primarily at StatoilHydro and lifeboat supplier Umoe Schat-Harding, but may be extended to other players and suppliers affected by findings made during the work.

In the PSA’s view, activity and staffing on the installations affected (Kristin and Veslefrikk A and B) have been adequately adjusted to maintain an acceptable level of safety.