Oil and gas operators will return to regular seating in helicopters
Following positive advice from RIVM and SodM, the seating arrangements in helicopter will be returned to
the regular configuration as from Friday 15 May 2020. RIVM confirmed that screening procedures applied
prior to fights to offshore installations and the use of mouth masks by passengers provide sufficient levels
of protection. The guidance and advice from RIVM on prevention of spreading of Covid-19 is and will
continue to form the basis of measures applied in the oil and gas industry.
Just like all other industries in The Netherlands, the offshore oil and gas industry has been confronted with
the impact of the Covid-19 virus. From the start, the industry has put in place measures to protect the work
force. NOGEPA and operators developed a common approach towards helicopter transport from Den Helder
to offshore installations and back.
The procedures that were put in place are based on RIVM guidance and advice from GGD. Each of the
measures have been checked with these authorities. Goal of the measures is to prevent the Covid-19 virus to
spread to offshore installations. In short, the measures entail:
- Pre-screening by operators: Operators urge personnel not to travel to offshore installations when
they have symptoms that could indicate a Covid-19 infection.
- Screening at Den Helder Airport: Personnel passing the pre-screening who arrive at Den Helder
Airport are requested to fill out a questionnaire, which is dedicated to identify possible risk of Covid
19 infection. Passengers are also temperature checked.
- Use of mouth masks: The preventive measures for helicopter transport also include the use of mouth
masks, which are handed to passengers traveling offshore.
Cockpit separation: In order to avoid cross-contamination, screens were installed between the
cockpit and the cabin, so that pilots and passengers are separated. The air circulation was also
- Seating arrangements: Quite early in the process, it was decided to increase the distance between
passengers by removing a number of seats. This measure has had a major impact on the transport
capacity of the helicopters.
- The operators also contracted a dedicated helicopter for the evacuation of persons who, during their
stay offshore, develop symptoms of Covid-19.
With these measures, operators have put in place a series of barriers to avoid spreading of Covid-19 to
offshore installations as far as reasonably possible.
The measures taken by the industry, have an impact on the continuity of the business, eg manning levels,
crew changes and production shutdown activities to carry out safety and production critical maintenance. It
also impacts the costs of operations in a time of an extremely difficult business climate. With all that in mind,
the operators were looking for opportunities to elevate the number of passengers in helicopters, provided
that this would not impact the safety of the work force.
Regulations and advice from RIVM were the basis of measures and they will continue to serve as the basis for
the measures in the oil and gas industry.
Therefore, the medical advisor of NOGEPA has requested RIVM whether returning to the regular seating
configuration would be acceptable. RIVM confirmed that they have no objection whatsoever against
returning to regular seating configurations. RIVM noted that the industry has put in place a robust set of
barriers and that procedures are implemented thoroughly. RIVM noted that a distance of 1.5 meters is not
achieved in a downsized seating configuration. RIVM considers that the application of screening procedures
and the use of mouth masks provides sufficient levels of protection. RIVM does recommend to apply good
ventilation in the cabin. In fact, improved ventilation is already part of the procedures and is implemented by
helicopter operators. RIVM confirmed that they understood that the consequence of returning to regular
seating arrangements is that passengers will be sitting shoulder to shoulder and that this does not affect their
Following the positive advice from RIVM, NOGEPA also consulted with the State Supervision of Mines (SodM),
whether they have any objection against returning to regular seating arrangements. SSM, after consultation
with RIVM, confirmed that they endorse the advice from RIVM.
On that basis, the operators have decided to return to the regular seating configurations. This will be applied
as from Friday 15 May to allow helicopter operators to change the seat configuration and for the operators to
inform their personnel.
Offshore personnel is urged to follow all the procedures and instructions and to wear the mouth masks in a
proper manner. All these measures are designed to protect your health and the health of your colleagues as
good as possible.