Energy Reporter, 31st May 2012
SHELL has abandoned plans to hand a major contract to Bond Offshore Helicopters after one of its aircraft ditched in the North Sea.
It is understood the oil giant had been on the verge of striking a multimillion-pound deal with the aviation firm to take over its UK flights.
But last night a spokeswoman for Shell said bosses did not have “sufficient assurances” of the safety of Bond’s operations – and had ruled it out of the tendering process.
It is believed the oil company – which is currently reviewing its North Sea helicopter services contract – dismissed Bond after one of its Super Pumas had to make an emergency landing off the coast of Aberdeen earlier this month.
Two crew and 12 passengers had to be rescued in what was the third serious incident involving a Bond Super Puma in the last three years. Last night Shell said there was not enough time left in the bidding process for Bond to prove the safety of its operations. It comes after the managing director of Bond Offshore announced he is to step down, and in the same week that the firm announced it was launching a review of operations.
“Whilst we make no prejudgment of the outcome of the investigation into the recent ditching incident, we are not able to achieve sufficient assurance on Bond’s operations in the timeline required for them to continue in the current review,” a spokeswoman for Shell said yesterday. Jake Molloy, regional organiser for the RMT union, claimed last night that safety representatives onboard several Shell platforms had raised concerns over the proposed contract with Bond.
“The bulk of the concerns have been about general safety,” he said.
Bond Offshore halted all flights on its EC225 fleet while investigations took place into what caused the aircraft to ditch earlier this month.
Results from an initial Air Accident Investigation Branch examination showed that its gearbox shaft had cracked. But operations resumed following a “rigorous” inspection of the model and the release of important data by manufacturer Eurocopter.
Last week the firm’s boss Bill Munro stepped down as managing director. At the same time, parent company Bond Aviation Helicopters announced that its chief executive officer, Geoff Williams, had also retired.
A spokesman for the Bond Group said there had been a “shake-up” of the company’s hierarchy, but declined to comment on whether it was linked to the latest accident.
Last night a spokesman for Bond said Shell would consider the company for future contracts.
“We met with Shell and are working with them to address their concerns,” he said. “They explained to us that as there is so little time left in the bid process that we needed more time than is available. Shell made clear to Bond that they want and encourage us to bid for future tenders and we look forward to doing so.”
Shell currently uses Bristow Helicopters for its North Sea operations.
The firm was awarded the seven-year contract, worth almost £200million, in 2005.
A spokeswoman for Shell said it would continue to use Bristow aircraft until a decision had been made following the contract review process.