SCOTLAND’S Finance Secretary John Swinney today called for an “early explanation” of the cause of the Super Puma disaster which claimed the lives of four oil workers.
In a special address at Holyrood on the tragedy, twelve days after the Sumburgh Head disaster, Mr Swinney told MSPs that rebuilding the shaken confidence of the offshore workforce in the Super Puma fleet had to be a key priority in the wake of the latest incident involving helicopters in the North Sea oil and gas industry.
And he said: “It is vital that the safety and security of employees is assured at all times. It is the industry and the Government’s duty to work with the trade unions and the offshore community to learn lessons from this latest accident and to take every possible step to ensure that safety is enhanced and remains the first priority for those who service the oil and gas industry in the North Sea.”
Mr Swinney, who paid his condolences to the families of those who died in the tragedy and paid tribute to the “brave” rescue workers, told MSPs: “To make further progress in addressing concerns about safety, we need to understand the cause of this accident.
“I have spoken to the UK Minister of State for Climate Change, Greg Barker, and he shares our desire to arrive at an early explanation for these tragic events so that we can learn the lessons and take whatever action is required. Once we know the cause of the incident we can determine what further inquiry is required to do all that we can to assure all interested parties about the safety of helicopter transport. Law officers and ministers will consider these matters once the findings of the AAIB (Air Accident Investigation Branch) investigation are known. “
He said the Scottish Government and its agencies were continuing to liaise with the AAIB as their investigation progressed and would provide any assistance it could to the investigation.
Mr Swinney continued: “The AAIB are aware of the urgency in determining the cause of the accident, in particular, in relation to reassuring the men and women who are asked to fly today, tomorrow and next week. They must have confidence that the helicopters are safe.
“As the aviation industry regulator it would be for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to, if necessary, take appropriate action in the event of any safety recommendations made by the AAIB following their investigation.”
He said: “It is entirely understandable that concerns about helicopter safety have been heightened because of the close proximity of incidents in the North Sea – this is the fifth incident since 2009 and the second involving fatalities.”
Mr Swinney added: “ In the meantime, the Helicopter Safety Steering Group has stated that it will commission a far reaching independent and strategic review of helicopter safety in the North Sea. This is the right and proper thing to do and we will support the HSSG as it seeks to establish this initiative.
“The Oil and Gas industry will work collectively to learn lessons from this accident and ensure that any safety recommendations are implemented quickly to enhance the safety of those working offshore.”