Nigeria’s National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a corporate services unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, has called for the termination of Bristow Helicopters contracts in the country following the emergency landing of a Bristow-operated Sikorsky S-76C++ helicopter on Feb. 3, 2016.
Although all passengers and crew members were lucky to survive following the precautionary water landing, the incident came just six months after the fatal crash of a Bristow S-76C+ near Lagos.
That accident killed two pilots and four passengers, and seriously injured the remaining six passengers on board the aircraft.
NAPIMS contends that the fatal accident and recent incident have called into question Bristow’s maintenance and inspection programs, prompting the call by NAPIMS for its joint partners to terminate all Bristow helicopter services contracts.
Bristow issued the following statement in response to the NAPIMS action: “We are aware that a number of our clients have received a letter from the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS) requesting termination of Bristow’s services and have engaged the authority and other government officials on the matter.
“Safety is Bristow’s number one core value and we remain focused on safety in all aspects of our operation. We are in full compliance of all Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) regulatory requirements and Sikorsky operating directives, and continue to fully cooperate with the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) in their investigation into the event of Feb. 3, 2016.
According to the statement, We remain committed to continuing our safety work with all members of the aviation community, including other operators, to share best practices and support other initiatives that will help improve safety, and to honoring the contractual obligations with our customers.
The company said “A comprehensive audit of our operation has been performed by the NCAA, and the NCAA has authorized that Bristow start test flights of the S-76 C++.
We are also conducting series of additional safety assurance checks on the Sikorsky S-76 fleet as a precautionary measure prior to returning the aircraft to service.
“We are engaging an independent third party to conduct an additional review of Bristow’s operations in Nigeria, with the expectation that such initiative will also extend to include the review of other similar entities across the Nigerian oil and gas industry, so that best practices can be shared laterally across all operators to further enhance safety.”
It will be recalled that NAPIMS, a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has decided to terminate all Bristow helicopter services contracts with its joint partners.
This followed the accident involving Sikorsky helicopter with registration 5B-BJQ owned and operated by Bristow Helicopters Limited on February 3, 2016, which led to the suspension of the aircraft type in the fleet of the company by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
In a letter written to the Managing Director, Total Upstream Nigeria Limited, dated February 14, 2016, NAPIMS wrote: “Barely six (6) months after a helicopter belonging to Bristow Helicopter crashed in August 12, 2015 killing a number of persons, another Bristow helicopter, a Sikorsky S76C++ with registration 5N-BOJ that departed Erha Platform enroute Lagos ditched into the Atlantic Ocean on February 3, 2016 with eleven (11) persons including two (2) crew members narrowly escaped death.”
The letter, which was signed by Group General Manager, Dafe S. Sejebor said NAPIMS noted that these accidents bring to question Bristow’s safety standards, “inspection programmes and frequency of maintenance, which has culminated in Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority suspending indefinitely Bristow’s Sikorsky S76++ from further operations in Nigeria.’
NAPIMS therefore declared: “Accordingly, all JV/PSC companies are hereby directed to terminate all aviation contracts awarded to Bristow Helicopters in accordance with the provisions of the aviation contracts. Bristow Helicopters may be allowed to participate in bids and operate in Nigeria upstream oil and gas only after a thorough and satisfactory safety audit has been carried out and all observed lapses adequately addressed,” the letter with reference number, NAP/GGM/02.04 said.
“You are hereby requested to invite the next lowest bidders in all tenders that Bristow won for price negotiations and facilities inspection with full NAPIMS participation in order to take the remaining scopes of the contracts presently being run by Bristow, the company told Total.
On February 21, 2016, NCAA issued a statement giving further directives and ordered all airlines operating the Sikorsky S76C ++ series to carry out a safety inspection on this helicopter type with immediate effect.
“The authority must immediately be provided with evidence of accomplishment of this directive. This action is in addition to the suspension of Bristow Helicopters operations of S-76 C ++ series and the ongoing audit. It is pertinent to point out that this directive is without prejudice to the ongoing investigation by the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) which the Authority is fully supporting,” NCAA said.