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North Sea oil rig workers left stranded after helicopter pilots go on strike

North Sea oil rig workers left stranded after helicopter pilots go on strike


Hundreds of oil and gas workers have been left stuck on North Sea platforms waiting for transport after helicopter pilots responsible for carrying staff to dozens of locations went on strike.

A two-day walkout began at midnight on Monday, May 13 at Bristow Helicopters, and is disrupting over 80 scheduled flights, say the British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa).

Each trip is capable of transporting 16 passengers, leaving travel plans for over 1,000 oil and gas workers subject to significant disruption and alterations.

The Telegraph reports that other helicopter operators serving the area have been working to provide extra capacity, but Balpa warned oil companies are being forced to review operations and adjust rotas.

The disruption has left some workers stranded after a typical two-week shift, or unable to fly out to the rigs, it said.

Among those stranded include workers on the Kittiwake platform, who were unable to depart as planned after operator EnQuest struggled to procure flights, according to trade journal Energy Voice. Some staff have spent 26 days on board and have been forced to cancel holidays, it said.

Strike action has impacted Bristow’s bases in Aberdeen and Sumburgh where it stations 11 Sikorsky S-92 helicopters. The company said some flights have operated despite the strike, with its website having listed seven return trips on Tuesday.

Amy Leversidge, Balpa’s general secretary, said the walkout, the second of seven 48-hour protests currently scheduled, was "a last resort" and called only after a year of failed negotiations over pay.

She said: "The strike is having a big impact, with people unable to fly in and out and oil companies having to make adjustments.

"Our pilots have a good relationship with workers on the rigs and we’re confident that they will understand why we’re having to take this action."

Captains at Bristow are paid in excess of £100,000, including allowances, with crews flying to oil and gas installations working approximately 182 days a year.

Bristow said it has offered pilots and technical crews an 11% average salary increase plus a lump sum payment worth 6% of their 2023 pay in acknowledgement of the "critical role" they play.

A spokesman said: "The very nature of strike action means operations will be disrupted. However, our crewing, scheduling and ground-operations colleagues are working as diligently and as professionally as possible to minimise the impact."

Platforms operated by five companies: BP, Repsol, Chrysaor, EnQuest and Harbour Energy, are affected by the strike according to Balpa.

One Bristow pilot, who asked not to be named, told The Telegraph that flying conditions facing crews are among the "the most demanding" in the industry, with helicopters hovering around rigs awaiting breaks in fog banks to make a landing, and sometimes forced to return to Scotland without touching down.

Average flight times are typically 50 minutes to an hour, though five-hour round trips are not unknown for operations from Aberdeen serving platforms beyond Shetland.

Bristow crews engaged in search and rescue activities are also striking, though emergency cover is being provided at all times.

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Published: 15-05-2024

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