Page last updated at 14:33 GMT, Wednesday, 2 July 2008 15:33 UK

Offshore safety review announced

Piper Alpha
The Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 claimed 167 lives

A review into safety in the offshore oil industry in the North Sea has been announced as the 20th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster approaches.

The House of Commons heard the announcement after a minute's silence to mark the anniversary.

Meanwhile, one of the survivors of the Piper Alpha disaster has unveiled plans for a lasting way of paying tribute to each one of the victims.

Ed Punchard's plan is for 167 scholarships to honour those who died.

He launched it in the Commons as Piper Alpha was debated by MPs.

We need to empower a new generation of young people who will be involved in the oil and gas industry in the future
Ed Punchard
Piper Alpha survivor
The debate heard claims that some oil companies were delaying maintenance to capitalise on high oil prices.

Lib Dem MP Malcolm Bruce was among politicians who said concerns had been raised.

The Gordon MP said: "I am concerned over reported delays in the maintenance of oil platforms.

"It would be dangerous if delays were occurring because producers were seeking to maximise production at current high oil prices, as has been suggested."

'Cannot agree'

Oil and Gas UK director of health and safety Chris Allen said: "We cannot agree with the comments made by Malcolm Bruce that routine maintenance on our offshore platforms is being delayed and safety is being overlooked. In fact, the opposite is the case.

"Safety and asset integrity remain at the top of the industry's agenda."

Of the scholarship plan, he said: "We have not been approached on the scholarship proposal and hence cannot comment on the proposals in any detail."

Ed Punchard
Ed Punchard wants the victims honoured in the future
But he explained: "Anything that helps to pass on the lessons learnt from Piper Alpha is to be welcomed, which is why Oil and Gas UK has been working hard over recent months to make sure the lessons are not forgotten and are passed on to the next generation of offshore workers and managers, many of whom weren't even born at the time of Piper Alpha."

Mr Punchard said it was "extremely important" to remember the 167 individuals who died.

He said the victims of the North Sea platform disaster, on 6 July, 1988, should be remembered in a way which was about the future rather than the past.

Mr Punchard explained: "I believe that we need to empower a new generation of young people who will be involved in the oil and gas industry in the future, so that they will be fully aware of the dangers inherent in the industry and the need for the highest levels of safety at every level."

He called on the oil and gas industry to fund a 20th anniversary Piper Alpha memorial scholarship scheme, allowing graduate students to apply for one of 167 places, each one in the name of one of the victims.

Aberdeen North Labour MP Frank Doran said it was important to remember the scale of the loss in Piper Alpha, and the consequences for survivors and relatives.


SEE ALSO
'Trying to pick which way to die'
02 Jul 08 |  North East/N Isles
Piper Alpha play honours victims
30 Jun 08 |  North East/N Isles
Piper Alpha remembered
06 Jul 98 |  UK News

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