Political writer James Cusick worked on a North Sea oil platform during his early 20s, and has reported on the major successes and disasters of an industry which remains economically important to Scotland and the UK. But is the North Sea facing a new fight over who controls safety? Has it become a political battleground revealing just how difficult Brexit is going to be?
Over the last 40 years almost 70 million people have flown in helicopters between the mainland and offshore oil and gas rigs in the UK side of the North Sea. That works out at over 8 million flights ferrying a skilled workforce from mainly Scottish airports over some of the most treacherous seas in the world.
In the early 1980s, I contributed to these statistics when working on one of the deep-water platforms. Before each trip I remember an adrenalin-fed focus that took in every word of the flight safety briefing. That’s still how it’s done, even for seasoned oil-workers.
Over those last four decades, accidents have claimed the lives of around 130 oil staff and flight crew. While the total fatal and non-fatal accidents is short of 100, this number offers little comfort if getting to work involves using a helicopter with a safety record you believe has been compromised.