Oil giant Shell said today that it will ditch three week offshore rotas on its central North Sea platforms next year.
The Anglo-Dutch major said the move would increase productivity and reduce costs on the installations.
The company made the decision following a review of its operating model intended to tackle issues with “offshore personnel” and boost efficiency.
Trade unionists welcomed the move and said they hoped other oil companies would follow Shell’s example.
Repsol Sinopec Resources UK confirmed last month that it was conducting its own review of offshore schedules.
Shell’s full-time employees currently work to a three weeks on, four weeks off (3:4) schedule, while contractors have a 3:3 rota.
But all crew on Shell’s central North Sea assets, including contractors, will switch to a 2:3 cycle in the second quarter of 2019.
North Sea operators and contractors adopting 3:3 rotas in a bid to lower costs was widely reported during the oil sector downturn.
The move was condemned by trade union officials, who warned that spending three weeks at a time offshore, instead of two, would have dire safety implications.
A leaked report by a safety representative on Shell’s Shearwater platform – seen by Energy Voice in March − said the new shift patterns had left workers’ partners “struggling with home life”, with some even being diagnosed with depression.
Problems at home were resulting in crew members being “distracted and not fully focused on the job at hand”, according to the report.
Shell said in May that it would consider changing shift patterns, while a consultative ballot of contractors on Shell installations − organised by the Unite trade union − showed strong support for industrial action if changes were not made.
Unite launched its ballot at the end of April, around the same time that Robert Gordon University (RGU) published a report saying workers on three-week, equal-time rotas were nearly twice as likely to experience ill health as those spending two weeks offshore.
Today, Shell said staff members and “core crew” would change to a 2:3 pattern.
The company will not implement the new operating model on its Brent Alpha or Delta platforms, which are due to be down-manned in 2019 as decommissioning work continues.
Alpha and Bravo ceased production in 2014.
Brent Charlie, expected to stop producing in the near future, will move to the new rota, however.
A spokesman for Shell said the changes would not result in job losses.
The spokesman said: “As a result of the new operating model we will combine our operations & maintenance teams, creating new multi-skilled operation & maintenance technician roles in the Shell organisation.”
Unite regional officer John Boland said: “We’ve been highlighting the dangers of working three weeks offshore at a time and have been campaigning to get operators to change their rotas.
“It’s good that Shell has listened to us and its own workers, as well as taking on board the findings of the RGU report.
“Repsol Sinopec Resources UK is also reviewing its rotas and we hope they take this on board, too.”