Norway's PSA Asks the Industry for Lifeboat Answers

Questions have recently been raised regarding the suitability of lifeboats for evacuation during bad weather. In a letter sent to all operators and shipping companies with facilities on the Norwegian shelf, the Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (PSA) has therefore asked the industry for answers regarding how the companies are handling this information to ensure that their own activities are carried out in a prudent manner.

Based on a precautionary approach, we have also asked the companies to describe any compensatory measures they have planned until the facts have been clarified with regard to progress on lifeboats. The deadline for reply is set at Friday, September 14th.

"Prudent operations" and "the precautionary principle"

The HSE regulations for the petroleum activities are normative and contain functional requirements. This means that the regulations state the safety level that must be achieved - but not how to achieve it. The lifeboats have always been subject to these functional requirements.

The Activities Regulations (Section 68, lett. d) state that: "The party responsible shall ensure that necessary actions are taken as quickly as possible in the event of situations of hazard and accident so that …the personnel on the facility can be quickly and efficiently evacuated at all times,"

An important part of the precautionary principle is that the individual operator and/or shipowner immediately institutes the necessary compensatory measures, for example when weaknesses are discovered in connection with the lifeboats. The precautionary principle also entails that measures must be evaluated - and implemented, if applicable - if there is uncertainty associated with use of the lifeboats in specific wind and wave conditions.

The owners of the lifeboats - i.e. the operators/shipowners - have a general responsibility to ensure that equipment that is put into use is suitable for its intended purpose, and that it complies with regulatory requirements.

Covers all types of lifeboats

The industry has been working on improvements to free-fall lifeboats on the Norwegian shelf since the summer of 2005.

Recently, questions have again been raised regarding the suitability of lifeboats as a means of evacuation in bad weather.

This relates particularly to the placement of the lifeboats on the facilities and their ability to maneuver away from the facility after being launched. The PSA has only recently been informed of this. On this basis, we request that each operator/shipowner describe how they are handling this new information.

The responses should address all types of lifeboats (also conventional lowering lifeboats) and all facilities equipped with lifeboats as a means of evacuation.


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