A trade union official has said the North Sea is firmly in the grip of coronavirus “fear” and lamented a perceived lack of leadership.
RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said the situation offshore was “chaotic” and could lead to a serious accident as workers are “distracted”.
Mr Molloy was speaking after suspected Covid-19 cases arose on three more oil platforms offshore UK.
Crew members on installations operated by BP, Shell and RockRose Energy were either in isolation or being flown home today.
A source said 11 people had been quarantined on RockRose’s Brae Alpha platform.
RockRose said it was “taking all the necessary precautions” to protect its staff.
Trevor Stapleton, health, safety and environment (HSE) director at trade body Oil and Gas UK (OGUK), said industry’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak had been “amazing”.
Mr Stapleton said companies have now agreed to start screening workers by checking their temperatures before they go offshore.
Helicopter operators CHC and Bristow are providing dedicated services to nine oil and gas producers for the return to shore of suspected Covid-19 sufferers.
At least four aircraft – unofficially dubbed “corona copters” — are currently available, but they have limited seating capacity.
Search and rescue copters were already prepared to evacuate those in a life-threatening condition from rigs.
It means offshore workers can now be transported to and from platforms regardless of their condition, Mr Stapleton said.
Other recent steps include the tightening of travel bans to include those returning from “category two” countries, even if they don’t have symptoms.
Meanwhile, most platform operators have already started reducing manning in an effort to keep a lid on the virus’ spread.
A number of issues do still have to be resolved. The creation of an industry-wide protocol to deal with suspected cases returning to shore remains a work in progress.
It’s understood a number of oilfield operators have already established their own “arrival protocols”, however.
BP’s spokesman said measures for further medical assessment onshore and safe onward travel had been put in place for the crew member who was flown back from the Clair Ridge platform.
OGUK also wants the UK Government to prioritise Covid-19 testing for offshore workers occupying “critical roles” to make sure platforms can run as normal.
Mr Stapleton also said OGUK was working with the Health and Safety Executive to understand virus responses’ impact on platform inspections.
He said the virus was “not the end of safety” but that a deferral of inspections was likely at some stage.
Mr Molloy said he appreciated that industry was working in “unprecedented times” and “dealing with the unknown”.
But he said the situation offshore was a “mess”, that the atmosphere on rigs was “terrible”, and that workers were “screaming for clarity”.
He called for someone to step up and show leadership, whether that comes from government, industry bodies or regulators.