DPR, Omni-Blu Aviation flag off oil and gas search and rescue surveillance command

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) on Monday flagged off the Oil and Gas Search, Rescue and Surveillance (SeRAS) Command and Control Centre in Lagos to improve safety and operational efficiency across the industry.
As a result, Omni-Blu Aviation Limited, an indigenous aviation company, has partnered with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide Search, Rescue and Surveillance, (SeRAS) operations to oil firms across the country.
Mr Sarki Auwalu, Director, DPR who flagged off the programme on Monday said it was being implemented in collaboration with Omni-Blu Aviation Services Limited and would increase safety and revenue generation.
He said they were critical to operations in the industry, adding that this necessitated the establishment of the National Oil and Gas Excellence Centre (NOGEC) which was inaugurated recently by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Auwalu said : “”If it is not safe, it cannot generate revenue and if the revenue has to be constant, it has to be safe
“This is why we have to create insurance and assurance for all workers across the value chain whether working offshore and onshore, either you are working for exploration and production, marketing or refining.
“The essence of this programme is to guarantee safety of lives while also guaranteeing for any emergency and at the same time provide medical services to victim that will be involved in the incident and above all, it creates a cooperative agreement to reduce cost and enhance value for all the stakeholders.”
One of Omni-Blu Aviation helicopters for the operation
The director maintained that the vision of the Buhari-led administration and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, was to open up Nigeria for business.
Auwalu said reducing the risk of operations in the oil and gas sector would attract more investors which would enhance the country’s economic growth and development.
 The Managing director of Omniblu Aviation, Capt. James Daniel who spoke during the flag-off at the Lagos airport that whoever wants to operate in an aviation environment requires an Air Operating Certificate (AOC) and Omni Blu has that requirement.
 Daniel further explained that Omni-Blu Aviation was partnering with DPR in terms of providing the licence for them to fly and providing the technical support as a result of Omni-Blu’s experience in the oil and gas industry and search and rescue services.
 He disclosed that his firm is the only company that has been authorised and approved by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) to operate ambulance services and SeRAS is an extension of that capability, which is what the company is bringing to the table.
 “This is just the first phase. There will be other aircraft that will be brought into the fleet and Omni Blu will be the operator providing the technical expertise to carry out this venture,” he said.
 He said the company would be running the SeRAS operation with two aircraft with the aim to expand soon, adding that as soon as the centre gets its own set of aircraft, the next phase will be to get three AW-139 aircraft.
“If an oil rig catches fire for example and you need to evacuate people from there, you have to start this with a severe risk assessment because there are risks to the lives already on the platform and there are also risks to those operating the machines. Therefore, the training levels are going to be top notch. The capabilities of the pilots will also be top notch.
 “This is a three-man crew. We have two pilots and what we call the winch man. This requires some of the highest amount of team work because you are under extreme pressure and time constraint. So, it is very necessary that the team work seamlessly and as one.
 “Search and rescue is more intricate. The helicopter will be able to come to the position, it will remain like in a high hover and we may have to winch people down, put them into baskets, winch them back up and come close to the water, amongst others. There are so many scenarios that only highly trained personnel can execute such a project. There is a centre for this operation here in Lagos, one in Osubi, one in Boni and two other centres.”
Another of Omni-Blu Aviation’s aircraft
Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria, Akin Olateru, said Nigeria was a signatory to Annex 12 of the Chicago Convention which requires the setting up of a programme like SeRAS.
“Search and rescue is a big deal. It saves lives and property and enhances productivity which should be taken seriously by any nation,” he said.
Similarly, AVM Muhammadu Muhammed (rtd.), Director General, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) , said  continued collaboration between DPR and the agency was critical to enhance safety.
Muhammed, represented by Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, Acting Coordinator, South West Zonal Office, NEMA said SeRAS would complement the efforts of NEMA in disaster management and reduction in the oil and gas industry.
Wole Shadare