Fisherman recalls spec ops on oil platform: ‘They were frightened of rigs being attacked at the time’

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An ex-fisherman recalled when special forces stormed the rigs in a North Sea to prepare for terrorist attacks.

It was revealed yesterday how balaclava-wearing commandos would slide down ropes and ladders and helicopters, while divers climbed on to installations from speed boats or submarines.

The top secret operations were carried out by units from the Special Boat Service (SBS) about three times a year in the 1990s on platforms in the Beatrice oilfield, 14 miles off the coast of Helmsdale.

Yesterday, former Helmsdale fisherman Sandy Cowie recalled seeing some of the training exercises even before this time.

Mr Cowie said he remembered the operations taking place not long after the Beatrice field was discovered in the 1970s.

The 83-year-old, who fished the waters for more than 30 years, added: “There would be activities on the oil platforms, a few miles east of where we were working. We just carried on and we had an idea of what was happening. They were frightened of rigs being attacked at the time.”

Yesterday, the Press and Journal published the firsthand account of the operations from Brian Cavan, former marine, aviation and logistics manager for BP.

He described how the SBS accessed the active rigs by helicopter, while divers climbed up the installations from below, with people on the platforms “playing ‘goodies and baddies” and simulating hostage situations.

He also provided details of a signed contract between BP and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in December 1996 to use the Beatrice platforms for 15 years after oil production ceased.

The contract was subsequently transferred to Talisman when BP sold their assets.

Spanish firm Repsol bought Talisman’s global assets, including its 51% interest in Beatrice operator Talisman Sinopec Energy UK, now RSRUK, in 2015.

The deal with the MoD was originally approved by the Department for Trade and Industry in 2004 as part of the original Beatrice decommissioning programme. However, it was later terminated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Yesterday defence commentator Tim Ripley reiterated that the threat of oil rigs being hijacked is very much still high today.

He added: “It’s very opportune. Terrorists are always looking for new and different targets to attack, and oil platforms are high profile and can cause major ecological damage and have a high value.”

He added that the main threat is from major Islamic extremist groups.

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