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March 16, 2014

Inquiry finds proper maintenance might have prevented 2009 North Sea helicopter disaster

Filed under: Archived,Europe,North Sea,Scotland,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

Inquiry finds proper maintenance might have prevented 2009 North Sea helicopter disaster

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

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The helicopter involved, photographed in 2004 shortly after Eurocopter delivered it to Bond.
Image: Gary Watt.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) ruled on Thursday a helicopter crash into the North Sea might have been prevented had proper maintenance procedures been followed. All sixteen on board died when the aircraft went down off the Scottish coast.

After a hearing in Aberdeen, Sheriff Principal Derek Pyle found Bond Offshore Helicopters failed to remove a component after a metal shard was found. The shard suggested spalling, or the shedding of metal particles in the aircraft’s gearbox. “The size and shape of the particle found […] were consistent with an advanced stage of classic spalling” according to the inquiry’s findings.

A week before the crash Bond mulled partially replacing the gearbox. The aircraft went down after the gearbox failed in flight. Pyle found a failure in communication between Bond and helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter had led to the decision not to replace the gearbox.

The routine flight was taking oil workers back to Aberdeen from the Miller offshore oil platform, owned by BP. The aircraft radioed air traffic control to inform they were twenty minutes from Aberdeen Airport but six seconds later was confronted with an oil warning light and grinding sounds. The crew declared an emergency but the main rotor broke free, which in turn smashed through the tail leaving the aircraft to plunge into the sea. The aircraft crashed within twenty seconds of the first sign of trouble.

The inquiry is surrounded by controversy owing to the five-year gap between accident and findings, and the decision by Crown Office not to prosecute over the crash. “For a criminal prosecution to have taken place, the Crown would have to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt” a Crown Office statement said on Thursday. “The Sheriff Principal makes clear that a reasonable doubt remained over the technical cause of the crash”.

Although the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and Sheriff Pyle found a catastrophic gearbox failure triggered the crash, the exact cause of the failure was never conclusively decided. After hearing expert evidence Pyle found the balance of probabilities pointed to spalling, but could not rule out a manufacturing defect.

The inquiry’s findings note “that it would be an extraordinary coincidence if the failure properly to carry out inspection and maintenance of the helicopter’s gearbox was not causative of a catastrophic failure of the same within a matter of days. But, as the evidence made clear, such a coincidence was indeed a possibility.” Pyle’s report added “the small piece of the helicopter which would have proved the matter beyond any doubt [has] not been recovered from the seabed”.

Cquote1.svg We have always accepted that we made mistakes through honest confusion over telephone calls and emails Cquote2.svg

—Bond Offshore Helicopters

Bond have released a statement noting “We have always accepted that we made mistakes through honest confusion over telephone calls and emails.” Sheriff Pyle found Bond’s employees “tried to carry out their jobs as diligently as they could. All of them impressed me as engineers who well understood the vital importance of their role in ensuring […] safety”. He also found staff were well-trained and resourced, echoing findings by the AAIB and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Pyle noted Bond readily accepted they should have properly followed the maintenance manual and normally did, but “on one occasion, that fundamental rule was broken” and the crash was likely a result. Bond, Eurocopter, and investigators all gave evidence.

Trade unions and victims’ families, however, have slammed the decision not to prosecute. While welcoming the FAI’s conclusions, victims’ lawyer Tom Marshall said the families wanted to review the decision not to prosecute with the Lord Advocate, and are also seeking a broader public inquiry. Audrey Wood, whose son Stuart died in the disaster, said “How [Crown Office] arrived at that decision [not prosecuting] will haunt us, as not only did we hear of multiple breaches of health and safety, but the decision was also made without all the evidence being present, as vital witness statements had not been given”.

Wood said there were multiple breaches of health and safety law that could be prosecuted. Crown Office’s statement counters “evidence presented during the FAI has not altered the insufficiency of evidence, therefore the decision not to hold criminal proceedings remains the correct one”. Unite union branded their decision a “travesty of justice”.

File photo of the buildings of the Scottish Parliament, in Edinburgh, where Labour have taken the debate on FAI delays by introducing a bill.
Image: David Monniaux.

Politicians have criticised the five-year delay holding the FAI, as has Scottish Trades Union Congress general secretary Grahame Smith who said “It is vitally important that lessons are learned at the earliest opportunity following tragedies where lives are lost”. Sheriff Pyle himself concluded “what can, I think, very properly be said is that nearly five years [delay] is on any view far too long and that we all have a responsibility for that. […] everyone concerned in future fatal accidents involving aircraft of whatever kind should do much better.”

Labour have called for new FAI rules; MSP Patricia Ferguson has put a bill before parliament; the Scottish Government says Sheriff Pyle’s conclusions are being scrutinised. MSP Richard Baker said the victims’ families and North Sea oil workers, who routinely use helicopters, had waited “far too long” for the FAI to conclude. “FAIs should never be delayed so long again.”

Crown Office expressed sympathy with the families involved for the delay but blamed the complex nature of the investigation, and pointed out the AAIB, Civil Aviation Authority, and local police had all already conducted their own enquiries. The AAIB spent 30 months investigating.

Twelve victims were from Scotland, many of those from in and around Aberdeen where the six-week inquiry was held. Three more were from elsewhere in the UK and the last was a Latvian national. Half of the fourteen passengers and two crew died “instantaneously” and the rest died very shortly after impact with the sea from blunt force trauma, the inquiry found.

None survived long enough to drown, according to Sheriff Pyle. Nonetheless he noted “there was a poignant moment when a witness was being taken through the graph in the AAIB report which set out the timeline of the accident that I, if not others present, understood for the first time the true horror of what took place.”

Audrey Wood said “The length of wait for nearly five years has been intolerable for all the families and we, the families, feel let down by the system.” Bond’s statement this week says “We would like to express again our deep sorrow at the 16 lives lost. Bond Offshore hopes [the inquiry] brings a degree of closure to the families, friends and dependents of those who died in the tragedy of 2009.” The sheriff also noted the “courage” of victims’ families, who attended the full hearing.



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  • “Sixteen people feared dead after helicopter crash in North Sea” — Wikinews, April 1, 2009

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August 13, 2011

Shell reports oil leak at North Sea platform

Shell reports oil leak at North Sea platform

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Environment
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Stock image of an oil platform.
Image: Manchot sanguinaire.

Oil producer Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed that the Gannet Alpha oil platform, located 112 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland, has suffered a leak from an underwater pipeline between the wellhead and platform.

Shell issued a statement regarding the incident, saying that “We can confirm we are managing an oil leak in a flow line that serves the Gannet Alpha platform. […] We have stemmed the leak significantly and we are taking further measures to isolate it. The subsea well has been shut in, and the flow line is being depressurised.” The company has thus far refused to comment on the exact size of the leak, saying that was “not a significant spill.”

According to a Shell spokesperson, a remote submarine was deployed after a sheen was noticed in the water surrounding the platform; since then, a craft has been brought in to monitor water conditions in the area.

The UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change has begun an investigation of the leak, with the Scottish government and Marine Scotland also involved in monitoring the situation.


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May 30, 2009

Oil prices reach six-month high

Filed under: Archived,Economy and business,North Sea,United States,World — admin @ 5:00 am

Oil prices reach six-month high – Wikinews, the free news source

Oil prices reach six-month high

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

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Oil prices attained a six-month high on Friday, on new signs that the U.S. economy may not be contracting as fast as was believed.

U.S. crude oil prices reached US$66.47 a barrel, a level not seen since last November. Brent North Sea crude oil was up $1.13 to $65.52 at the end of the week, after peaking at $65.70, also the highest level since November.

This comes soon after a report released by the U.S. Commerce Department showed that the U.S. GDP fell by 5.7%, revised from the original figure of 6.1%.

Analysts predict that oil prices will continue to rise amid more positive economic news, especially from economic giants such as India and Japan.

“Oil market participants’ conclusion that the worst of the recession has passed and that a recovery in demand must be at hand was bolstered overnight by higher than expected first quarter growth in India and a sharp jump in Japan’s April industrial production,” said MF Globa’s John Kilduff.

“We’ve got a lot more optimism about the economic outlook than we did. The market is factoring in a recovery in demand by the end of the year,” said an analyst for the Commodity Warrants Australia, Toby Hassall.



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April 1, 2009

Sixteen people feared dead after helicopter crash in North Sea

Sixteen people feared dead after helicopter crash in North Sea

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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A search-and-rescue mission was underway after a helicopter with 16 people on board crashed off the northeastern coast of Scotland in the North Sea on Wednesday, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency stated.

Accident site off NE coast of Scotland in the North Sea

Police say they have recovered eight bodies, while the other eight persons aboard are still unaccounted for. The chopper was returning from an oil platform shortly before 2:00 p.m. local time when it crashed into the waters about 35 miles (56 km) from the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland.

The aircraft involved in the accident is believed to be a Eurocopter AF332 L2 Super Puma.

“A supply vessel called Normand Aurora, which was quite close by, has put their fast response boat into the water and is looking for survivors,” said a spokesman for the agency. “Two helicopters from the RAF have been scrambled to the scene and a Nimrod marine patrol aircraft has been diverted to the area. Aberdeen coastguard have begun broadcasting a mayday signal into the area and RNLI lifeboats from Peterhead and Fraserburgh are heading for the scene now.”

This February, another helicopter went down in fog in the North Sea. All eighteen people on board survived. In March, a Sikorsky S-92A helicopter carrying oil workers also crashed off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, killing seventeen people.



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February 2, 2009

Heavy snow fall disrupts UK transportation and communications

Heavy snow fall disrupts UK transportation and communications

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Monday, February 2, 2009

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Image: Nick Farnhill from London, UK.

The heaviest snow to fall for 6 years has caused transport problems in some parts of the United Kingdom, especially in London, where it was the heaviest snow for 18 years. It was caused by cold air travelling westwards towards the British Isles from Poland and Russia. As showers moved across the North Sea towards the east coast of Britain, it fell as snow. Throughout Monday, weather fronts pushed in from the south east in Belgium and France towards the South East of Britain. The weather fronts pushed their way further north and westwards.

Almost a foot (30cm) of snow has fallen in the south-east of England, halting train and bus services and making driving treacherous. Flights to and from London’s Heathrow and City airports and the outer London Gatwick and Stansted airports are suffering delays and cancellations. In some affected areas, the majority of schools have been closed.

The centre of London, which usually sees no snow at all most years, has around 4″ (10cm) of laying snow, whilst Kent, Sussex and Surrey have up to 10″ (25cm). The snow reduces further north but has still disrupted travel, with England’s Highways Agency advising against car journeys unless essential. The agency had 500 gritters clearing main roads during the night and 600 motorway patrols out in the morning. Stretches of motorway and main road have been blocked by jack-knifed lorries or closed as a pre-emptive measure.

The snow caused disruption to British transport websites, with National Rail Enquiries, Transport for London and South West Trains websites all brought down by heavy traffic. The Highways Agency’s site was also unavailable and returned with interactive features turned off. People calling and texting during the abortive rush hour jammed the mobile telephone networks. Mobile network ‘3’ said it had seen “a very steep jump in the number of picture message sent across the network” whilst T-Mobile UK reported 73% more calls, 21% more texts and 20% more broadband bandwidth being used than usual.

The Met Office has a severe weather warning in place for England, Wales and parts of Scotland, with further snow expected across the country later in the week.



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February 10, 2008

North Sea oil rig evacuated in security alert

Filed under: Archived,Disasters and accidents,Europe,North Sea — admin @ 5:00 am

North Sea oil rig evacuated in security alert

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

An oil platform in the North Sea, similar to the one that was evacuated.
Image: Erik Christensen.

An oil rig in the North Sea has been evacuated after a security alert. Up to 539 oil workers are being moved off the affected rig in an operation that began at 09:20 UTC this morning.

Barry Nielson, a Squadron leader with the RAF was quoted (BBC News) as saying “It’s unusual, that’s probably the best way to describe it. But it falls within our normal operating procedures and we are reacting accordingly.”

By the end of the day, the alert had ended, with Kathy McGill (manging director of the firm responsible for the rig) being quoted as saying “We are very relieved that this has turned out to be a false alarm, but we obviously had to treat it seriously and act appropriately to ensure the safety and well being of all our people.”



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December 13, 2007

North Sea oil spill is Norway\’s second worst

North Sea oil spill is Norway’s second worst

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

“Statfjord A” North Sea oil platform from which the spill was released.
Image: Marcusroos.

On Wednesday at 12:40 p.m. CET (UTC+1), Norwegian authorities were alerted to an oil spill in the Statfjord oil field. The spill originated from the oil platform “Statfjord A”, one of three platforms in the field, operated by StatoilHydro.

Kristin Hoffmann of Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (Petroleumtilsynet) told Dagens Nyheter: “This is the second largest in Norwegian history.” The amount of oil released into the sea is believed to be at least 3840 cubic metres, 25,000 barrels, or approximately 4,000 metric tons. This amount would rank the spill low on the list of oil spills.

“It is a significant amount and we are taking it seriously,” said Vegar Stokset, a spokesman for StatoilHydro, though he said the spill was “very far from land.”

The accident occurred in rough seas while tanker Navion Britannia was loading oil from a storage buoy, StatoilHydro said. Christian Sletner of the Norwegian Coastal Administration said, “StatoilHydro has a good preparedness plan, and a satisfactory system for handling this.” He added, “StatoilHydro is responsible for cleaning up. This is the ‘polluter pays’ principle.”

“The amount of damage could range from completely marginal to relatively large if substantial amounts reach land,” Sletner said. “The chances of it reaching land, at the moment, seem to be relatively small.”

No one was injured at the time of the accident and the platform will continue work as usual Thursday, said StatiolHydro Information Director Kai Nielsen. In a press release, StatiolHydro announced that four vessels are on their way to begin the clean-up, though they will have to wait for calmer seas to begin work.

Petroleum Safety Authority Norway said in a press release that it is demobilizing disaster teams and beginning to prepare for its investigation of the incident. It will also closely follow StatoilHydro’s clean-up.

Statfjord is 200 km (124 miles) off the coast of Norway, located to the east of Bergen. It is an oil and gas field in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, though approximately 15% of it is in the United Kingdom’s waters. At peak production, it produces over 700,000 barrels of oil per day. The field is one of the largest known under-sea oil fields in the world.



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November 8, 2007

Severe weather warnings issued in UK

Severe weather warnings issued in UK – Wikinews, the free news source

Severe weather warnings issued in UK

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Thames Barrier in London United Kingdom

A 1.5m tidal surge is expected tonight in the United Kingdom and could lead to flooding on the Kent coast, according to the UK Met Office. The surge is expected to cause “severe” flooding and the Thames Barrier was closed at 2000 UTC. The Environment Agency have said that there is “extreme danger to life and property” and have evacuated 200 people on the coast. 1,300 properties are thought to be in the affected area.

The Environment agency representative said that they would have extra staff available to inform the public of the risks but are also asking people to check that others are aware of the potential risks, especially to the elderly.

The surge has been caused by the high wind speeds of over 80 miles per hour, and could be over hurricane force, high tides and low pressure over the North Sea. There are currently 42 flood warnings of various degrees, eight of which are rated severe.

North Sea oil platforms are being evacuated in advance of the storm. BP is expecting to shut down the production on its North Sea oil platforms on Thursday. At the same time, Conoco Inc. has announced, that they will evacuate around 500 staff oil from platforms at the Ekofisk oil field.

The METAR reports from Ekofisk Oil Platform are indicating continuously intensifying winds. At 11:50 UTC on Thursday, wind gusts of 57 knots were reported



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September 6, 2007

Belgian triathletes race at North Sea coast

Belgian triathletes race at North Sea coast

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Yesterday, the 2007 edition of the Zwintriathlon took place. This short course Triathlon starts in the canal in Sluis, the Netherlands, where the athletes swim 1000 metres. Then the 41 kilometres cycling part of the race goes through the nature domain Het Zwin, to the city of Knokke in Belgium, where the athletes had 10 kilometres of running on the seawall ahead of them. The finish was at the casino in Knokke.

In the Men’s race, Stijn Goris surprisingly beat living legend Luc Van Lierde and Rutger Beke, known for being acquitted from allegations that he had used EPO. Goris, the leader in the overall ranking in the Olympic distance, could just follow Luc Van Lierde during the swimming part. He completed the cycling race together with Van Lierde, but had better legs during the footrace. Number four was Bart Aernouts, a duathlete champion who increasingly focuses on triathlon. Young talents Marc Geerts and Lander Dirken followed, before Frederik Van Lierde and Koen Hoeyberghs, who won the competition in the age group of 40 years and older (40+).

Kristien Vleugels was the first female athlete, before Knokke’s local favourite and category 40+ athlete Françoise Wellekens. Another favourite, Joke Coysman, stopped her race after fainting during the running section. Sofie Goos followed, while Marjolein Truyers managed to keep her advantage before Inge Vancauwenberghe and Anne-Marie Dupont. The winners from each race took home €2500.

Almost 1000 athletes came to Knokke for the triathlon, professional and recreational, men and woman, and also hand-bike athletes. A typical element of this triathlon is the fact that some competitors finish the race in a costume. Among these, Spiderman was the first to cross the finish line. Other characters came from the Belgian comic albums of Tintin, from the fairy tale Peter Pan, there was a Roman soldier, a Tarzan look-a-like, a Chiquita Banana, and more.



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January 15, 2007

Internet pirates want their own nation

Internet pirates want their own nation – Wikinews, the free news source

Internet pirates want their own nation

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Monday, January 15, 2007

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Picture of Sealand.

Location of Sealand.

The Pirate Bay, a file-sharing website based in Sweden, seeks to purchase its own island nation in an attempt to escape copyright laws. A group of people has launched a campaign to collect money via the Internet to acquire a former British sea platform situated in the North Sea, six miles (9.6 kilometers) off the British coast.

The Pirate Bay states that the platform, named Sealand, will give users an easy way of sharing files protected by copyright in other nations. According to the statement made on the website, those who invest in purchasing Sealand will receive citizenship in it.

The platform was occupied in 1967 by the associates and family members of Paddy Roy Bates, a former radio broadcaster and former British Army Major, who now form its royal family. Prince Roy and Princess Joan Bates and their son Prince Regent Michael are willing to sell the platform for £65m. The royal family claims that it is independent and outside of any country’s jurisdiction.

The sovereign status of the platform is disputed. The Government of the United Kingdom extended the territorial waters from 3 to 12 nautical miles after 1987, placing Sealand in its jurisdiction. However, Prince Roy simultaneously expanded the territory of Sealand and claimed continued independence. (See Sealand on Wikipedia.)

Hired estate agents from Spain estimate the price of the floating island to be about 504 million pounds. The Swedish website mentioned that it was looking for alternatives to acquire Sealand. It also mentioned that if the “Internet-pirate” community is not able to buy Sealand, it will look for another small place to claim as its own.

The Pirate Bay website was closed for some time in May 2006 due to Swedish police raids. The site was later re-opened from the Netherlands before moving back to Sweden.

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  • “The Pirate Bay back online” — Wikinews, June 3, 2006
  • “US accused of sinking The Pirate Bay” — Wikinews, June 2, 2006
  • “The Pirate Bay and Piratbyrån raided” — Wikinews, May 31, 2006

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