Offshore Industry Faces Potential Shortage of Helicopter Resources

The continuing upsurge in oil and gas activity is leading to increasing difficulty in supplying helicopter services for the offshore industry, and a potential shortage of aircraft.

The concerns are raised by Aberdeen-based Bristow Helicopters who, in addition to adding new helicopters to their fleet, are now searching the globe for more aircraft, and associated crews and technicians to support them, to meet the demand from oil and gas companies.

With delivery of new aircraft taking up to two years and training of personnel taking between five and seven years, it appears that all providers of helicopter transport are facing the same problem.

Bristow's Director of European Operations, Willie Toner says oil and gas companies can ensure the current situation does not arise again by including helicopter provision earlier in their forward planning:

"In the same way that drilling rigs are booked well in advance, long term consideration of future helicopter requirements would ensure that the risk of any shortfall in availability is significantly reduced.

"We make every effort to anticipate future demand but, in a highly competitive market, serving an industry that is subject to wide variations in activity, it would be very helpful if the helicopter operators could be part of clients' overall logistical planning from the outset."

Since the peak of oil and gas activity in the 1980s, the required number of daily flights offshore from Aberdeen has halved, with providers of helicopter transport adjusting their resources accordingly and redeploying aircraft to support development of new oil provinces around the world.

Willie Toner says closer liaison is the key to matching future supply and demand: "Bristow is investing significant sums over the coming years in fleet expansion, personnel recruitment and training to meet current requirements, and we want to avoid any future problems by being more closely involved in our clients' forward planning."