In 2020, it is 40 years since the Alexander L Kielland disaster. Through videos and reports, we explain how this accident led to improvements in safety – and its significance for today’s work on safe operation.
The Mayday call from the flotel came at 18.33 on that dark evening. A leg had been torn off, it quickly listed, took in water and overturned completely in just 20 minutes.
Weather conditions were poor, and fog descended. A high south-easterly wind produced waves six-eight metres high in strong currents.
The official inquiry report in April 1981 attributed the disaster to fatigue cracking in a weld, which led to one of the five support columns being lost. Disaster was then unavoidable.
Kielland was moored alongside the Edda installation in the greater Ekofisk area when the accident occurred. The gangway linking rig and platform had been retracted because of the bad weather.
Events developed so quickly that few of the 212 people on board managed to get to their cabin to fetch a survival suit. Only eight managed to put one on – and four of those survived.
Three of the seven lifeboats, with space for 50 people, were crushed by waves hitting the rig columns during lowering. Only two of the boats therefore remained usable.
And nobody on board managed to operate the release mechanism for the liferafts, which were capable of accommodating 400 people.
Temperatures of 7°C in the air and 4°C in the sea meant that those who fell into the water had little chance. A few managed to swim to the Edda platform and were hoisted on board.
But 123 people died in the North Sea that evening. Eighty-nine survived.
A major accident can be defined as an incident, such as a fire or explosion, which causes the death of or serious injury to a number of people.
Such an incident may also be an oil spill which does serious harm to the environment, or lead to the loss of substantial material assets.
Read how the Kielland disaster has influenced safety
40 years since KiellandThe disaster of 27 March 1980 cost 123 people their lives – and led to lasting and important changes in the safety of petroleum operations. Read more about the consequences of the Alexander L Kielland accident and its continued significance.
Disaster led to important and lasting changesThe loss of Alexander L Kielland on 27 March 1980 marked a turning point on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS), says PSA director general Anne Myhrvold. She believes it has been crucial for offshore safety work.
Positive inheritanceThe Alexander L Kielland disaster proved extremely important for safety progress on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) in terms of regulation, supervision and allocation of responsibility between government agencies.
Turning point for safety workA number of weaknesses and improvement needs were exposed in Norway’s offshore regulation and supervision system by the Alexander L Kielland disaster in 1980. During the years which followed, a completely new safety regime was put in place.
Kielland at 40: new exhibition on the disasterTo mark 40 years since the loss of the Alexander L Kielland on 27 March 1980, the Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger is opening a new exhibition on the worst accident in Norwegian oil history and the development of safety in this industry.
Never another major accidentThe years 2019-20 have a key place in Norwegian petroleum history, marking 50 years since Norway became an oil nation and 40 years since its worst offshore disaster respectively. These milestones are being used by the PSA to challenge the industry – Never