/ 10 February 2008

Britain says North Sea incident ‘contained’

Britain evacuated of oil workers from a North Sea accommodation platform on Sunday after reports of a bomb threat but officials said the incident was quickly contained and there was no need to send in a bomb squad.

Fourteen helicopters and a Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft were sent to the Safe Scandinavia platform in the Britannia oil field, 210km north-east of the Scottish city of Aberdeen, following a security alert, officials said.

Sky News said the evacuation followed a bomb threat, apparently made by a woman on board, but officials would not confirm the nature of the security alert. Sky later quoted sources as saying the episode was being treated as a hoax.

There was no information immediately available on whether the incident had affected production.

A police spokesperson said the incident had been ”very quickly contained from a police point of view”. Nobody had been arrested, she said.

”It is understood the incident was sparked by comments made by a woman on the installation,” said a spokesperson for the Kinloss Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Scotland, which had aircraft involved in the operation.

The Ministry of Defence in London was preparing to send a bomb-disposal team but a spokesperson said later the bomb squad had been stood down. ”I think everybody is safe,” a ministry spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said about 500 oil workers were being evacuated to other platforms and there were no reports of any injuries.

BBC News 24 quoted sources as saying the incident was not terrorist-related.

The RAF spokesperson said 14 helicopters were involved in the operation.

”There’s a security alert. We’ve been requested to send out helicopters,” he said.

”It is a major response to a potential situation, rather than a known situation,” he added.

The Nimrod was dispatched to the area to oversee the helicopters’ operations.

The Safe Scandinavia is owned and operated by Oslo-listed company ProSafe. No one was immediately available for comment on the incident. — Reuters