Shell scraps Bond helicopter contract plan after Super Puma ditching
OIL giant Shell has abandoned plans to award a multi-million pound North Sea crew-change flight contract to Bond Helicopters because of safety concerns.
Shell had been close to awarding the contract for operations in the central North Sea to Bond Offshore Helicopters but has now ruled the company out of the tendering process, following the latest incident involving one of the helicopter company’s Super Puma fleet. On 10 May, a Bond-operated Super Puma EC225 was involved in a controlled ditching 25 miles east of Aberdeen after the pilot reported low oil pressure shortly after take-off from Aberdeen’s heliport.
A spokeswoman for Shell said: “Shell is conducting an ongoing review of its helicopter services contract across its North Sea operations. Whilst we make no pre-judgment of the outcome of the investigation into the recent ditching incident, we are not able to achieve sufficient assurance on Bond’s operations in the timeline required for them to continue in the current review.”
A Shell source confirmed that the oil giant had been on the verge of awarding the central North Sea contract, currently held by Bristow, to Bond before last month’s ditching incident. The source said: “We were undergoing a fairly comprehensive helicopter services review and we were getting toward the end of the tendering process.
“For the parcel of work that was related to the central North Sea, Bond were looking as though they were going to be awarded the contract.
“However, the ditching incident several weeks ago meant that we had to put the review for that portion of work on hold whilst we sought the right assurances.
“Given the really short time-line on this, Bond have not been able to provide the full assurances that we needed and for this particular tender they have been withdrawn.”
Jake Molloy, the regional organiser of the RMT union, said: “I know that the safety reps on several installations have been questioning Shell’s justification for engaging Bond. I’d like to think that Shell have reacted to the safety reps and safety committees and that that system has demonstrated its worth.”
Earlier this week, Bond Offshore Helicopters announced that Bill Munro, the company’s managing director since 2007, was stepping down as a review of the company’s operations was being launched. Two years after Mr Munro became head of the helicopter company, a Bond-operated Super Puma crashed and the two pilots and 14 oil workers on board were killed, in the worst helicopter disaster in the North Sea for two decades.
A spokesman for Bond said: “We met Shell and are working with them to address their concerns. They explained that as there is so little time left in the bid process, we needed more time than is available. Shell made clear that they want us to bid for future tenders and we look forward to doing so.”
Meanwhile oil giant BP yesterday issued a statement in support of Bond. A spokesman said: “Though we understand some of the concerns being expressed, BP remain confident in Bond’s ability to deliver a safe service.”
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