Nevertheless, the flotel was intended to remain on Statfjord until the end of 2000. The decision to sell came in for a great deal of criticism. It was argued that the requirement to charter the flotel for the first 14 months after the sale, and for several periods later, made this an unprofitable transaction. On the other hand, supporters claimed that the unit’s maintenance and operating costs were high and that the cost of laying it up when not needed on the field was unreasonably large.
Several years before Polycrown left, Statoil had applied to the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate (NPD) for permission to remove the flotel when the extra berths were no longer needed. This request was approved by the regulator on 22 December 1997, on condition that freefall lifeboats replaced the traditional davit-launched craft and an alternative means of evacuation was installed in the form of rescue chutes. A major safety upgrade also had to be carried out on Statfjord A.
While it was on the field, Polycrown had served as an additional lifeboat and eventually as a muster point in the event of an evacuation. Following the platform safety upgrade, both the NPD and the unions accepted the flotel’s removal.
Polycrown was considered in its day to provide the finest quarters on the Norwegian continental shelf (NCS), and earned the nickname ”the North Sea Hilton”. But this description did not always hold good. A total of 160 workers had to be evacuated in 1993 because of the smell of excrement.
After four days of blocked toilets and a crew ever more desperate to relieve themselves, the position had become untenable. A filter had failed, releasing a tonne of charcoal into the fresh water system and blocking all sinks, showers and toilets. The whole system had to be flushed out.
Although the evacuation did not affect production on Statfjord A, the amount of shuttling by helicopter increased. The displaced crew were lodged on the Statfjord and Gullfaks platforms, and Statoil brought in additional helicopters to handle the traffic.
Interview with Geir Pettersen.
Ryggvik, Helge. Fra forbilde til sikkerhetssystem i forvitring: fremveksten av et norsk sikkerhetsregime i lys av utviklingen på britisk sokkel. Oslo 1999, pp 71-72.