The offshore sector has been served from Den Helder for 55 years. First from the municipal heliport on the edge of the city and since 1981 from the current location, as a co-user of De Kooy Maritime Airport.
It is not without reason that the oil and gas companies have chosen Den Helder as the best location for offshore flights; This has everything to do with its ideal location in relation to the work locations in the North Sea.
The same oil and gas companies recognized early on that the offshore infrastructure is critical and therefore wanted their employees - the passengers transported by helicopter from Den Helder Airport -, their luggage and all freight to go offshore in a fully controlled manner. During those years, Den Helder Airport has introduced all security measures in accordance with their wishes and in accordance with the security controls at Dutch national airports, with the difference that the security measures at Den Helder Airport have no legal status.
After years of carrying out many safe and secure offshore flights for the oil and gas sector, the first flights were carried out for the wind sector in 2018. At Den Helder Airport we use the same security process for that sector, because these flights also go to critical locations.
However, in the offshore wind sector margins are under great pressure, which is why the sector handles budgets differently. However, this can go too far and be at the expense of security. By using helicopter fields without any form of security, uncontrolled helicopter flights to critical installations can be carried out at lower costs. This can lead to dangerous situations, such as the blowing up of Nord-Stream 1 and 2 and the many incidents involving spy ships and submarines.
Knowing that there will be room for 5 to 6 offshore helicopter airports in five countries around the North Sea in the near future, it is special that in the Netherlands alone approximately 5 to 6 locations have been set up from which offshore flying may take place. A lack of aviation legislation has created an uneven playing field. This threatens the continued existence of Den Helder Airport after 55 proven years of service and poses a risk to the security of critical energy infrastructure.
In 2021, Den Helder Airport discussed this with the responsible Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. During that conversation, a request was made to develop a targeted offshore aviation policy. The ministry had not realized that flights from the various helicopter fields go to offshore locations completely uncontrolled and showed full understanding for the situation outlined by Den Helder Airport.
It is now clear that without the legal obligation for these helicopter fields to have a comparable level of design as Den Helder Airport, there is no level playing field. Den Helder Airport has the best credentials to guarantee security and thus the security of supply of the new offshore energy areas, but will ultimately lose out.
European regulations on this matter are in the making and hopefully on time. If Den Helder Airport is indeed defeated and the few remaining helicopter fields in the Netherlands cannot meet European requirements, the offshore airports in the United Kingdom and Germany will be happy to take over Dutch offshore flights.