Back to the ’70s!

When the idea of the EU regulating offshore oil and gas activities first raised its head several years ago, it was met with opposition from those in the industry who were skeptical that a bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels could do a better job than the existing national regulators.  Surprisingly the most outspoken opponents were the French, albeit obviously with an eye on their substantial UK North Sea presence:

French oil major Total has strongly criticised the European Union plans to regulate offshore oil and gas across its 27 member states.

“We think that regulation is not the appropriate format,” Total’s senior vice president for Northern Europe Patrice de Vivies told at a conference on Thursday, Reuters reported.

“The standards should be handled by competent people and not by bureaucrats in Brussels so we have to be very careful with this proposed regulation”, he added.

De Vivies instead advocated for best-practice UK standards to be imposed across the region by individual member states.

“In the UK the standards are the best in the world. In Norway it’s very close. We have to be very careful to take the best but not to introduce bureaucracy into the process,” de Vivies said.

M. de Vivies had a point.  With Norway excluded from the proposal due to its non-applicability across the EEA (although this was subject to some debate), the regulations would mainly have affected the UK, and to a lesser extent the Netherlands and Denmark.  Following the Piper Alpha disaster, the UK Health and Safety Executive, the regulatory body which governs offshore oil and gas activities, had in partnership with the oil companies and other industry players done a pretty good job of elevating standards to the highest in the world while keeping the industry commercially viable.  This is an achievement that the North Sea industry was rightly proud of, and many questioned what value a bunch of bureaucrats from countries with no experience in offshore oil production – or even of having a coastline – would add.

The proposal was eventually watered down from a regulation to a directive, and it comes into force into July 2015.  However, its effects are already being felt:

RMT-OILC says it may stop co-operating with Oil & Gas UK, risking a UK breach of EU rules.
A battle over changes to North Sea offshore workers’ shift rotas has intensified after a trade union threatened action that could leave the UK in breach of European Union offshore safety legislation.
The RMT-OILC union warned it will stop co-operating with Oil & Gas UK on tripartite engagement — a key requirement of the EU Offshore Safety Directive — if the trade body fails to help stop an “onslaught” of job cuts and changes to shift patterns by North Sea operators.
If carried out, the action could bring into question the UK’s compliance with the directive, which is currently being transposed by the UK and other EU member states into national law.
Yes, the new EU directive has effectively handed veto power over to trade unions.  Very smart, but what to expect from a body that is made up of countries whose own industries are collapsing in no small part to idiotic militant trade unions?  This has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with politics and ensuring the supporters of left-wing governments across Europe can get their grubby fingers onto as many levers of power as possible.  The previous system had worked so well that it was used as a benchmark for oil and gas safety across whole swathes of the globe, and now we’re going back to the ’70s with idiots like this (yes, they’re the same clowns I mentioned in my last post):

RMT regional organiser Jake Molloy said: “The workforce are now questioning the union’s efforts to work with Oil & Gas UK, and this will inevitably bring into question the ability of the industry and regulator to demonstrate that the UK is meeting its obligations under the European Safety Directive by demonstrating tripartite engagement.

“If the onslaught continues against our members we will have no option but to walk away from the so-called tripartite structures.”

Onslaught?  The oil price has collapsed, the North Sea operations are on the verge of economic infeasability, and in an effort to reduce costs workers are being asked to go from 2 weeks on/2 weeks off or 2 weeks on/3 weeks off to a 3 weeks on/3 weeks off rotation.  These supposed North Sea tigers might want to contemplate that the standard rotation around the world is 4 weeks on/4 weeks off.  Only in European waters – mainly Norway and the UK – are the workers molly-coddled so much that they enjoy 2 weeks on/2 weeks off.

And boy have they benefitted.  I know many, many guys in the Aberdeen oil industry.  All have made small fortunes over the past 10 years, driving a housing boom that has outstripped even that of London (and is now about to come to a crashing halt), and many a Porsche and BMW dealership in that area of Scotland has flourished.  The spectacular rise in salaries, contract rates, and opportunities in Aberdeen was unprecedented in the history of the industry, and now the fun is over we have some dickhead from a union threatening to bring the whole industry down because his members have been asked to cut back a bit.

Unless these idiots are thrown off the jetty in Peterhead by people with more sense, the UK’s oil industry will go the same way as the coal industry, only this time they’ll be no Thatcher to blame.  The RMT-OILC members might want to contemplate how well off they’ll be putting in shifts in a McDonald’s – or not putting in shifts at all – before they throw away a well-paying job on a North Sea rig.

“I used to issue stickers for hard-hats. I’m better than this.”


One Response to Back to the ’70s!

  1. dearieme says:

    It’s always worth remembering that Harold Wilson closed more pits than Thatcher. It’s also worth remembering that he was the idiot who gifted large sections of the UK’s oil province to Norway.