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Hundreds of oil rig workers stranded at sea after helicopter pilots go on strike

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 21:40:28 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 21:40:28

Some staff cancel holidays with walkouts set to disrupt more than 80 flights Igors Aleksejevs/iStockphoto Hundreds of oil rig workers have been left stranded after helicopter pilots responsible for transporting offshore staff to and from dozens of locations in the North Sea went on strike

Some staff cancel holidays with walkouts set to disrupt more than 80 flights

: Igors Aleksejevs/iStockphoto

Hundreds of oil rig workers have been left stranded after helicopter pilots responsible for transporting offshore staff to and from dozens of locations in the North Sea went on strike.

The two-day walkout by pilots at Bristow Helicopters, which began at midnight on Monday, will disrupt more than 80 scheduled flights, according to the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa).

With each trip capable of carrying 16 passengers, travel for more than 1,000 offshore workers may be subject to disruption and adjustments.

While other helicopter operators serving the area are providing extra capacity, Balpa said oil companies are being forced to review operations and adjust rotas. However, some workers have been left stranded after a typical two-week shift, or are unable to fly out to the rigs, it said.

Among those stuck are 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. 

The strike concerns Bristow’s bases in Aberdeen and Sumburgh, Shetland, where it stations 11 Sikorsky S-92 helicopters, the workhorse of North Sea transport. The company said some flights have operated despite the strike, with its website listing 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.

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