A weather warning has forced the down-manning of a North Sea oil platform for the second time in a year, raising worker concerns over its safety.
CNR International has removed 32 crew members from its Ninian Southern installation, 240 miles off Aberdeen. The operator said the removal was “in accordance with existing procedures” to safely maintain the asset, and leaves 95 workers still on board.
It is the second time in a year that the platform has been down-manned due to adverse weather, following a larger evacuation in April 2021 which saw nearly 90 workers removed.
Similar procedures were enacted in December 2017, when nearly 70 personnel were evacuated in light of concerns over adverse weather conditions and wave heights with both cases raising structural integrity concerns on the platform’s legs due to weather conditions and wave heights.
In 2018, workers were also removed from the platform due to a “potential lifeboat capacity issue”.
A CNR International spokesperson told Energy Voice there were “no concerns over the structural integrity” in this case, and that the removal of crew was “purely a proactive measure following the established procedure.”
But RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said it raises question over the long-term future of the Ninian Southern.
“The [platform] created history when it became the first installation in the North Sea to be effectively abandoned several years ago due to impending bad weather. The installation was shut down and the crew down-manned, as concerns around ‘installation integrity’ were being considered,” he told Energy Voice.
“It would be reasonable to expect that repairs and other measures to assure the integrity of the installation would be conducted to avoid further down manning. However, it appears the operators are now running with the risks as this is the third time we have seen this situation arise.
“It is difficult to see how this meets the regulatory test of reducing risks to “as low as reasonably practicable” [ALARP] and we would expect the Health and Safety Executive will be looking at this as being untenable. We have seen this applied to the Foinaven recently, it may well be the Ninian Southern is next.”
In a statement today, CNR said: “The planned down-man is in accordance with existing procedures developed to safely manage the asset.
“The safety of personnel on board the platform is of paramount importance to the company.”
It said no other installations were affected. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it will follow up with CNR to establish the circumstances leading to the down-manning.
The Met Office issued weather warnings to the public on Friday morning, forecasting very strong winds which are expected to bring travel disruption and a risk to life.
BP handed in a decommissioning plan for the Foinaven floating production storage and offload (FPSO) vessel in the west of Shetland earlier this month, following a flurry of health and safety issues.
Inspectors last year questioned the “residual strength of the hull” and cast doubts on the vessel’s suitability for operating in the harsh seas at its location.
On the Ninian South case, an HSE spokesperson said: “As with all offshore installations, HSE has carried out inspections considering the management of structural integrity of the Ninian Southern installation. HSE is aware of the current down-manning.
“As part of the accepted Offshore Safety Case for this installation, CNR have developed a Downman and Upman policy in the event of certain forecasted extreme weather conditions. HSE will shortly follow up with CNR to determine precise details that have led to this particular situation.’’