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Norway's WEA law change proposal stirs complacent industry into belated action

A proposal issued by Norway’s largest political party, Labour, with backing from the Centre and Socialist Left parties, has spooked the Norwegian oil industry.

It reads: “Parliament asks the government by 1 August 2017 to put into effect a regulation change which makes the Working Environment Act (WEA) fully applicable to petroleum-related activities (including construction, pipe laying, maintenance and decommissioning work) from vessels on the Norwegian continental shelf." At present only drilling rigs, production units and vessels working in contact with hydrocarbons are included under the act.

The WEA and associated regulations for oil and gas extraction set strict regulations on work hours and conditions on offshore facilities. 

The oil industry finally appears to have recognised the danger and is now mobilising to blow the proposal out of the water. Five industry officials will try to convince parliament that the proposal is a bad idea, starting with Statoil vice president for HSE Oystein Haaland. Next up will be Odd Stroemnes, managing director of TechnipFMC Norway, followed by the Federation of Norwegian Industries boss Stein Lier Hansen, Norwegian Oil & Gas Association (Norog) leader Karl-Erik Schjodt Pedersen, and legal director Are Gauslaa from the Norwegian Shipowner’s Association. 

Norog is expected to present a report it commissioned from Menon Economics, arguing the proposal would wreak financial havoc. Costs are projected to soar due to the need for modifications and more personnel on specialist vessels, several of which face exclusion from Norway due to non-compliance.

There is convincing evidence that the proposal could jeopardise numerous projects.

Labour MP Torstein Tvedt Solberg has, however, dismissed the industry’s arguments as scaremongering, and trade unions will point to double standards, as oil workers on rigs are protected by Norwegian law, while those on vessels are not.

This key battle could still go either way.