Update on offshore helicopter safety

Circular No: NP/220/17


HO ref: S2/4 S2/6

20th December 2017

Dear Colleagues

Update on offshore helicopter safety

Further to circular no.0115/17 of 20th July 2017, I write regarding your union’s ongoing activity to highlight and to address the long-standing and legitimate concerns offshore oil and gas workers hold over the safety of helicopter transport in the North Sea.

A debate was held on 25th October in the Scottish Parliament on a motion on offshore helicopter safety. During the debate a series of cross-party MSPs used the RMT’s briefing to press the Scottish Government to do more to address workers’ chronic lack of confidence in the safety of offshore helicopter transport, including but not limited to Super Puma models. The RMT’s demand that the Scottish Government press the UK Government to launch a public inquiry into this issue was also widely supported.

In responding to the debate, the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP declined to support the call for a public inquiry, stating that the Scottish Government is “generally satisfied that progress is being made in the right direction.” The Minister also offered the Offshore Co-ordinating Group unions RMT and Unite a meeting on the issue.

As a result of this meeting, which took place yesterday the Minister has asked the RMT to produce a report on the regulatory ineffectiveness of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and its vulnerability to commercial imperatives in the oil and gas industry. This report will be drawn up by RMT and submitted to the Scottish Government in the New Year on behalf of the Offshore Co-ordinating Group comprised of RMT, Unite, Nautilus, Balpa and GMB.  

Super Puma models H225 and AS332 L2 remain grounded in both the UK and Norwegian sectors, despite the aviation authorities in both countries having lifted official grounding notices in July without properly consulting North Sea trade unions. According to a Written Answer of 30th November to an MP in the RMT Parliamentary Group, the UK Government’s position is that:

A plan of checks, modifications and inspections [of Super Puma models] needs to be undertaken before any flights take place. It will also be for operators and their customers to decide whether they wish to re-introduce the helicopters to service. In order to resume operations individual operators will need to supply safety cases to ensure that they have all the necessary measures (procedures, processes, tooling and training) in place for a return to service. To date no UK operators have done so.

Early Day Motion 553 has been tabled in the Commons by the Convenor of the RMT Parliamentary Group, Ian Mearns MP detailing offshore workers’ concerns and calling for a public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety. EDM 553 has received a good level of cross-party support to date and is here: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/553 Please ask your local MP to sign EDM 553.

Your union also briefed the Shadow Transport Secretary, Andy McDonald MP ahead of a meeting later this week with the CAA. Our comments focused on the helicopter safety issues affecting our members in the offshore sector, particularly the CAA and Oil and Gas UK’s repeated failure to properly engage with RMT and the other OCG unions on the Offshore Helicopter Safety Leadership Group before the ban on Super Pumas was lifted.

I would appreciate it if you could bring this circular to the attention of all Branch members and you will be kept updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary