Coronavirus to hit offshore flight demand


The number of offshore helicopter flights  will be hit heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, according to Air & Sea Analytics research.

Coronavirus has driven down demand for oil and gas and impacted the day-to-day operations on oil rigs, spelling bad news for offshore helicopter operators who have, so far, witnessed an uptick in flight hours in 2020.

“The situation is not sustainable,” Steve Robertson, director of Air & Sea Analytics told Helicopter Investor. “Offshore oil companies are going to start thinning down the number of staff on oil platforms, effectively cancelling maintenance work or turn around programmes – only keeping the crew necessary to keep production going.”

Flight activity for heavy and supermedium helicopters increased year-on-year in February and up to March 17th, with 494 and 360 more flights respectively, according to the Air and Sea Analytics research. But this is likely to change in the coming weeks.

The coronavirus has had a massive impact on the transport market, shrinking the demand for fuel with fewer people willing to travel during the global pandemic. This, along with Saudi Arabia flooding the oil market following a trade dispute with Russia has driven oil prices down to an almost 20-year low.

The virus has also been confirmed on several offshore oil and gas platforms – including Equinoor’s Martin Linde platform in Norway and the Noble Lloyd Noble Mariner platform in the Shetland Islands. If the situation worsens, all non-essential staff be moved ashore, eliminating the demand for regular offshore helicopter flights.

Robertson predicts all non-essential offshore work could be cancelled, platforms isolated, and complete shutdowns if not enough staff are available to continue safe operations.

“Whilst this virus may yet impact offshore rotorcraft activity in a meaningful way, the reality at present is that it has yet to do so with the exception of a handful of offshore platforms. This is likely to change in the coming weeks.

“However, without hydrocarbon production, there is no natural gas for power stations or local distribution into homes, there is no petrochemical feedstock for vital products including medicines, and so on. It is truly a ‘mission critical’ service.”

You can read the full report here.