The victim was employed by Rotterdam-based Croon & Co Contraktkompani, hired by McDermott to do various electrical installations on the barge. Under tow from the Netherlands to Statfjord, it was about 60 nautical miles north of Ekofisk on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS) when the accident happened.
Previously named Viking Piper, the semi-submersible LB200 was owned by McDermott and had been chartered to Statfjord operator Mobil for 135 days. It had been modified to serve as a flotel for Statfjord B until Safe Gothia became the permanent accommodation floater.
These changes included the installation of ten 50-seat lifeboats – four of the type used on Polymariner and Statfjord A, and six of a new design called Harding Safety Type MCH 26 T. The accident happened with one of the latter when the radio on board was being checked. Some modifications had to be made, which the deceased was assigned to carry out.
He was reported missing about 18.00, when everyone from his company had assembled for dinner. An alarm was sounded when lifeboat number 3, located amidships to starboard was found to be gone. At 19.00, LB200 changed course from due north and was towed round in a southerly direction.
The joint rescue coordination centre (JRCC) in Stavanger was notified, both British and Norwegian search and rescue helicopters were mobilised and all ships in the area were notified. The sick bay on LB200 was prepared to receive the patient.
Seismic survey vessel Geo Surveyor spotted the lifeboat at 20.18. A helicopter from Ekofisk landed on the ship soon afterwards to take on a nurse and a rescue officer. At 20.40, the lifeboat was entered and the missing person found dead.
Geo Surveyor then towed the lifeboat to LB200 and two McDermott employees boarded via a personnel basket. The lifeboat was retrieved to LB200, and the nurse entered at 22.40 to get the deceased out and transported to the sick bay.
The accident is thought to have been caused by faulty installation of the pneumatic hook release system in combination with erroneous servicing of the boat. A technical report from Det Norske Veritas found that the installation fault identified in the pneumatic system could not have released the hooks on its own.
LB200’s owner had been told by the Norwegian Maritime Directorate that a function test of the lifeboat release mechanism was necessary before the lay barge would be approved for use on Statfjord. But such a test had not been done before the accident happened. Harding subsequently modified the release system.
No personnel from McDermott’s sub-contractors had received lifeboat – or for that matter safety – training. This was justified on the grounds that they were only present for the tow to complete the work, and not part of the permanent crew. All Mobil and McDermott employees on board during the towing operation had taken at least a five-day offshore course.
In line with normal procedure, the accident was investigated by the Norwegian police. Nobody was charged or punished, and the case was shelved for lack of evidence.
Stavanger Police Station archive. Investigated cases. Case 4173/81.