Oil giant BP has suspended the use of the type of helicopter which ditched 1,600ft from one of its rigs, a company boss revealed yesterday.
North Sea managing director Bernard Looney added that to describe him as being pleased that all 18 people made it back to shore safely was “an understatement”.
Speaking hours after the drama unfolded, he said: “The rescue operation went well. It had many facets to it. Obviously, if we look at the crew of the helicopter, they managed to put the helicopter on the sea in a safe manner. It can’t have been easy.
“The crew, the passengers, managed to evacuate themselves from the helicopter safely, put themselves in a position where they could be rescued under what were no doubt very stressful circumstances.
“This is about professionalism of many different groups, not any one particular individual or any individual team. And I think it’s a testament to the industry here in the North Sea that we were able to do what we did last night.”
He said two of BP’s staff were in the helicopter when it went down, both of whom he spoke to yesterday morning.
“I didn’t spend much time talking to them about their experience. My purpose in speaking to them was very simple. It was to make sure they were OK, which they were.
“It was to make sure that they had whatever they needed in a way of support from BP, which I am thankful to say they had. And it was to assure them that they should take all the time they need to recover from what was no doubt a very harrowing experience.”
Mr Looney said the decision to suspend the use of the EC225, the latest model of the Super Puma helicopter, was taken jointly with operator Bond Offshore.
He said: “What happened last night was a very serious incident. Until we understand more, it seemed prudent to Bond and ourselves that, until we know some more, that we should suspend the operations of that particular model.
“That in no way presupposes there is something wrong with the aircraft.
“I have no idea why that aircraft landed on water last night. That’s what the investigation is about. But I think you would have to agree we should be cautious and until we know more, we need to be prudent and the steps we’ve taken jointly – Bond and BP – is to say that until we do know more, let’s suspend the operation of that particular model.”
He said BP and Bond would decide jointly when to start using the EC225 model again.
In the meantime it is relying on its back-up helicopter which is of a different type.
He said the company will ensure any problems or challenges relying on the back-up helicopter to ferry workers to and from the rigs “will be kept to an absolute minimum”.
A spokesman for Bond said last night its other EC225s were checked yesterday and remain operational.
He said: “Bond’s two other EC225s have been inspected and are fully approved and certified. Bond has every confidence in the aircraft, which are available to fly.”