Offshore safety fears as Altera fails to provide answers over Foinaven vessel

Aug. 4, 2022
Unite the Union has raised concerns for crew during imminent strike action.

Offshore staff

HOLBORN, London  Unite the Union raised safety concerns Aug. 2 for crew aboard the Petrojarl Foinaven FPSO vessel with continuous strike action set to begin this Friday (Aug. 5).

The offshore trade union has slammed Altera, which operates the vessel, for maintaining a "wall of silence" with the Foinaven scheduled to go under tow to Hunterston Port Aug. 3. The vessel is expected to reach the port by early next week, according to the Unite report.

Unite represents around 60 workers who perform a number of roles including crane operators, electricians, deck crew and production technicians. 

Altera has repeatedly refused to respond to safety concerns raised by Unite specifically over the emergency services provision for the vessel if it comes into distress or if a fire breaks out as the workers will remain on the Fionaven while taking strike action until it reaches Hunterston Port.

An April 2 fire onboard the Foinaven prompted an evacuation of non-essential staff. The incident occurred while preparations were taking place for the vessel’s departure from station.

Vic Fraser, Unite industrial officer, said, “Unite has repeatedly sought assurances that Altera are clear on the actions that our members will be taking during the strike, and the effect this has on the Fionaven during tow. We have asked Altera if they have contacted its client bp, the towing company Maersk and all the regulators to ensure that they are also fully aware of the implications due to the strike action.” 

He continued, "We remain deeply concerned for the safety of the crew during the tow, which is likely to involve around 50 people, for the Foinaven itself, the towing vessels and the wider environment should anything go wrong. Quite literally our members could be stranded at sea for days without any clear safety procedures in place. To date we have faced a wall of silence from Altera over these real concerns which is unacceptable and dangerous." 

In late July, Unite confirmed that 96% of its members onboard the Foinaven voted for strike action on an 84% turnout. The dispute centers on offshore members being given a significantly inferior redundancy package compared with Altera’s onshore workforce.  

The Foinaven FPSO vessel is owned by Teekay but operated by Altera staff. The vessel is contracted to work for oil and gas giant bp, but it is due to end its contract when it is towed to Hunterston Port. All workers will be made redundant at the end of August as bp ended the contact for the vessel. 

The Foinaven Field is estimated to be about 65 nautical miles from the Shetland Isles within the Faroes/Shetland Trough in the Atlantic Ocean. Production from the field was suspended in 2021.



(Courtesy TotalEnergies)
The Culzean field complex in the UK central North Sea.
(Courtesy Altera Infrastructure)
The FPSO Petrojarl Foinaven has operated at the Foinaven field west of Shetland since 1997.