New search-and-rescue services evolve for Barents Sea oil work

Statoil and ENI contract for a Sikorsky line grounded earlier this year after a non-injury platform incident in the North Sea.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Sept. 18, 2017 at 9:18 AM
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Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Norwegian energy company Statoil said it awarded contracts for the same Sikorsky helicopters that were grounded earlier after an offshore accident.

Statoil said it teamed up with Italian energy company Eni to award Bristow Helicopters Ltd. two contracts for the Sikorsky S-92. One will serve primarily as a search-and-rescue vehicle, while the other will serve for transport, with the capacity to serve as an SAR helicopter when needed.

"The cooperation with Eni means that we can use the helicopter resources efficiently, and maintain a sound helicopter service from [the northern port city of] Hammerfest, with transport and search and rescue capacity," Pål Eitrheim, Statoil's chief procurement officer, said in a statement.

Sikorsky in January grounded its S92 service helicopters briefly following a December incident that left router damage to the West Franklin platform in the North Sea, operated by French supermajor Total.

A spokesperson for CHC Helicopter, which operated the S92 involved in the incident, told UPI at the time the crew responded as trained and landed the craft after control issues emerged while landing at the platform. No injuries were reported.

The Norwegian energy company stopped using the Airbus H225 Super Puma helicopter after a fatal April 2016 crash left more than a dozen of its employee dead in one of the worst incidents of its kind in nearly 20 years. After the crash, the company said it made up for the shortfall with the Sikorsky S-92.

Statoil said the organization of helicopter safety was complicated because of the number of players involved, each of whom have a varying degree of understanding about their role in the work.

Both of the S-92s contracted for operations in the Barents Sea have enhanced safety features, like new night-vision capabilities that facilitate search and rescue operations in the dark.

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