Naming Statfjord A
The platform had been positioned securely on the seabed by 8 May of the same year, after a uneventful voyage across the open sea. Plans had called for the naming ceremony to take place in Digernessundet near Stord on 28 April 1977, five days before the scheduled start to the tow-out. But an uncontrolled blowout on the Ekofisk Bravo platform six days earlier put a stop to that.
Operator Mobil did not feel a festive ceremony to name the world’s largest platform to date was appropriate while the eyes of a world press corps were focused on Norway’s oil industry as a result of the blowout. So superstition was put to the test, and the platform towed out before it had been named. The naming ceremony was postponed indefinitely.
A new date was fixed for 16 August, but the festivities were once again postponed because Mobil felt they would be inappropriate after all the events of that summer – including masses of newspaper coverage about delays and cost overruns.
Third time lucky
So it was third time lucky. The whole naming party flew out to Statfjord A on 22 November, and the platform was named with due ceremony by Kloster. Normal practice is for the wife of one of the owners to be honoured with the role of lady sponsor, but the choice fell this time on the spouse of someone who had helped to build the structure. This highlighted the role of the workforce and the unions.
Prime minister Odvar Nordli also emphasised the pioneering commitment of the workforce to Statfjord A in his speech at the ceremony: “If anyone had told me 10-15 years ago that I’d be standing atop a 200-metre-high concrete structure in the middle of the North Sea, I wouldn’t have given them much credit as a prophet. This is a technical adventure, and you have helped to move the boundaries of humanity’s technical advancement.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Aftenposten (1977). 22 November
“Development of the Statfjord field is not significant merely for the companies and people involved. Nor is it confined to a substantial economic activity for Norway when petroleum operations get under way. No, we see here a sign of humanity’s ability to find new ways to overcome economic and technical problems when developments demand it.”
Shortage of space, not least on the helicopter, meant that only about 20 prominent people were able to take part in the ceremony out on the actual platform. The remainder were treated to a video of the event in Stavanger’s Atlantic Hall that evening.
Apart from Kloster and Nordli, those visiting the platform included industry minister Bjartmar Gjerde and finance minister Per Kleppe. Others represented the companies in the Statfjord group, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, firms involved in the construction project, employer organisations and unions, and both the British and American embassies. Personnel working on the platform on this day of fine weather also attended.
Despite the total ban on alcohol which applied to all Norwegian offshore platforms, Statfjord A was named in traditional style with champagne. But the guests had to rest content with seeing the bottle smashed, and were not served champagne by the glass until they arrived at the Atlantic Hall dinner later. Nordli unveiled a plaque on the platform as a memorial of the event before the visitors had lunch in the canteen – with the same menu which was served every day.
Arrangements seemed to be going according to plan. But Kloster had to change out of her Hardanger-style bunad folk costume into something more practical for the helicopter flight with the rest of the party back to Stavanger for the celebratory dinner. By mistake, the costume was left behind.
That raised the question of what the lady sponsor was to wear for the dinner. It was impossible to get hold of her folk costume – even a special helicopter would take too long to fly out and fetch it. The stores in Stavanger were closed. But someone in Statoil had the necessary contacts, and got a clothes shop opened so that Kloster could chose a dress for the dinner.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Lavik (1997): 37. In her speech, she made it clear that Statfjord A was a welcome job for “our menfolk” at a time when things had looked bleak for Stord Verft and the Aker group.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Rogalands Avis, (1977). 23 November.
A number of other speeches were given at the dinner. Gjerde highlighted the fact that the investment associated with Statfjord A was world’s largest ever in a single industrial project, while Finn Lied, Statoil’s chair, noted that it would take no more than a couple of years for every krone of that spending to be recovered.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Rogalands Avis, (1977). 23 November.
Mobil was also clearly pleased with the commitment made by the workers, and director Alex H Massad from Mobil Oil Inc presented two cheques of NOK 25 000 each on behalf of the Statfjord group. They were accepted by Tor Magne Sørensen and Ernst Ditlefsen on behalf of the workers at Stord and Norwegian Contractors respectively.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Adresseavisen (1977). 23 November. He also presented an attractive piece of jewellery to Kloster as a reminder of the naming.[REMOVE]Fotnote: The total cost of the naming ceremony was NOK 626 000, according to a letter to Statoil dated 4 November 1977.
So where did the name come from? The declaration of commerciality and the name for the field were published simultaneously on 29 August 1974. Statoil decided on the latter. With its 50 per cent holding, it insisted that the field should be named in accordance with its own principles. These specified that a field name should begin with “Stat” [“state” in Norwegian] and have a Norwegian landscape term as its second component. However, this principle was abandoned at the next crossroad in favour of Gullfaks.
Oslo daily VG carried the following report: “The background for choosing “stat” is that both Statoil and Statex[REMOVE]Fotnote: The seismic survey company owned jointly by Statoil and Norwegian arms manufacturer Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk. already exist. This demonstrates that oil on Norwegian territory is very much a state concern, and the word also has tradition behind it. It is easy to pronounce and emphatically understood by both Norwegians and foreigners. Statoil naturally expects the choice of name to be greeted with amusement and criticism, but is surely correct in claiming that the Statfjord name will eventually be regarded as a natural term in the oil debate.”[REMOVE]Fotnote: VG (1974). 30 August .
Lavik, H., Berge, L., Gooderham, R., & Statfjord-gruppen. (1997). Statfjord : The largest oilfield in the North Sea. Stavanger: Statfjord group.
Adresseavisen, 23 November 1977. “Ingen grunn til å revurdere oljepolitikken”.
Aftenposten, 22 November 1977. “Dåpsseremoni på Statfjord A”.
Rogalands Avis, 23 November 1977. “Statfjord A viser vår evne til å løse problemene”.
VG, 30 August 1974. “’Stat’ i alle navn på feltene”.