Offshore Operator's Vaccine Mandate Hits Opposition in Scotland

The classic GBS platform Ninian Central, built by Chevron in 1978 and operated by CNR since 2002 (file image courtesy CNR)

Published Jan 18, 2022 6:39 PM by The Maritime Executive

The labor union Unite Scotland has called for the Scottish government to block a plan by oil and gas company Canadian Natural Resources (CNR) to require COVID-19 vaccination for all personnel on its platforms. 

Unite believes that CNR is the first offshore operator in the UK to implement a vaccine requirement for its workforce and its contractors. However, Hess, Chevron and other oil companies have already implemented similar policies in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, and Equinor is considering a comparable rule for platforms off Norway.

CNR's new rule took effect on January 14, and it applies to both direct employees and service personnel from CNR's contractors. This includes employees from some of the leading offshore technical services companies in the UK, like Petrofac, Aker, EnerMech, Bilfinger and Global E&C.

CNR currently operates three offshore platforms in the UK North Sea, Ninian Central, Ninian South and Tiffany. All are maturing assets, and CNR has been decommissioning adjacent operations as they reach end of life, including the Banff, Kyle and Ninian North installations. The company is known best for its onshore natural gas and bituminous oil sands operations in Western Canada; in its home country, CNR has required COVID-19 vaccination for all on-site personnel since December 1. 

The company-wide mandate has met with stiff resistance in the UK. Unite has asked the Scottish government to intervene, and it says that it is pursuing options for legal action. 

"Our position is that we support workers getting the Covid-19 vaccination but we are strenuously opposed to any mandatory vaccination policy," said John Boland, Unite's industrial officer. "Instead, education and communication should be used to encourage people to get the vaccine instead of workers in essence being told it’s a jab or your job. This position is supported by [industry association] Oil and Gas UK, and to our knowledge no other operator or contractor has enforced such a policy."

The omicron variant of COVID-19 has now peaked in the UK and is in decline, according to government statistics. Data from the last two months suggest that omicron has been far less fatal than the previous delta and alpha waves of COVID in the United Kingdom, causing far lower levels of hospitalization and mortality. Deaths roughly doubled month-to-month, but remained just a fraction of the daily rate seen during the second (delta) wave.