An investigation has been launched after a North Sea operator was forced to evacuate staff due to concerns over faulty lifeboats.
North Sea operator CNR International confirmed last night that a number of essential lifeboats were not fit for use upon its Ninian Southern platform, prompting a hasty evacuation of nearly 60 workers.
Ninian Southern is located 240 miles from Aberdeen in the northern North Sea.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said yesterday that it was “aware and making initial enquiries” into the issue.
CNR admitted that the 59 workers evacuations made, believed to correspond to two lifeboats, was a direct result of “further repairs that were needed” found during what the firm called “planned essential maintenance on platform lifeboats”.
A spokeswoman for CNR said: “CNR International (UK) Limited advises that planned essential maintenance on platform lifeboats is underway on the Ninian Southern Platform.
“As a result, the number of personnel has been proactively reduced to 80 onboard with 59 non-essential personnel returning onshore from the platform yesterday (July 10). The planned maintenance activities have no impact to production.
“Safety is core value at CNR International and all work will be completed safely and effectively before the platform is fully re-manned.”
Workers trade unions have responded with disbelief, with one saying: “You need your lifeboats, especially given the Piper Alpha situation.”
One union said last night it had been told that certain lifeboats “we’re not fit for purpose” due to damage to “lifeboat davits and steelwork” and that some would have to be replaced entirely.
Tommy Campbell of Unite the union said: “Questions need to be asked about how this situation arises in the first place. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? And if it doesn’t, then it flags up a very serious health and safety concern.
“What would the situation of been if there had of been an evacuation via lifeboats? And it then turned out that those lifeboats are useless.”