By Chinelo Obogo
In a bid to further promote Search, Rescue and Surveillance (SeRAS) in the oil and gas sector, Omni-Blu Aviation Limited, a Nigerian company, has partnered with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide the service to oil firms across the country.
Omni-Blu Aviation said it partnered with the DPR in the areas of licencing and technical supports, stressing that its experience over the years in the oil and gas sector and search and rescue services made it a force to reckon with in the provision of the service.
Speaking during the flag off of the SeRAS services at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, Capt. James Daniel, Managing Director, Omni-Blu Aviation said that the company remains the only company that has been authorised and approved by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA) to operate ambulance services, stressing that SeRAS was an extension of that capability, which the company is bringing to the table.
Daniel explained that the partnership was the first phase of the exercise, saying tyat Omni-Blu was planning to acquire more aircraft, which would further enable it to provide more technical expertise to carry out the business.
According to him, Ombi-Blu would commence the SeRAS operation with two aircraft, while other airplanes would be added to its fleet to further expand the business, noting that the company was hoping to acquire additional three AW-139 aircraft.
He added: “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 topnotch. 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.”
The Ombi-Blu boss insisted that as long as companies continue to excavate oil and gas, Nigeria and organizations in the sector would require the service.
According to him, the vision of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ombi-Blu was to grow the vision into a regional support, emphasising that SeRAS had come to stay.
Also speaking at the occasion, Akin Olateru, Commissioner, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), described search and rescue as a big deal, which saves lives and properties and enhances productivity.
He advised countries around the world to take search and rescue more seriously, stressing that this was one of the roadmaps of Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation.
The DPR Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Sarki Auwalu, said the provision of the equipment would boost security immensely and help in de-risking the country.
He lauded the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari for making the deal possible.
Auwalu, pointed out that the provision of the equipment is a huge asset to the petroleum industry.
He noted that 80 per cent of the energy supply chain requires search and rescue equipment like the one to be provided by Ombi-Blu.
“Much of the revenue this country gets is from the petroleum industry and if it is not safe, the common man won’t have the required energy to move. Mobility requires energy, which is refined products like fuel, cooking gas and others.
“People who work to get these products to Nigerian households need to be safe and that is why we are trying to de-risk our nation. This infrastructure that we put in place with the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva will make it easier for investors who are ready to come and work in a safe and secure environment,” he said.