Home ministry has withdrawn security clearance to Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd, a provider of charter services
It may be called a collateral damage. After hitting the country’s defence establishment, Vectra Group may have an impact on the oil and gas industry.
The ministry of home affairs (MHA)’s order to withdraw security clearance to Vectra Group's aviation subsidiary, Global Vectra Helicorp Ltd, may impact the offshore operations of state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), Reliance Industries (RIL) and British Gas (BG).
The companies are now looking at optimising operations to avoid impact to critical operations. "The move may impact our operations. We have our contingency plans in place, wherein we may seek help from our other service providers to press for more machines in service," said a senior ONGC official, on the condition of anonymity.
Sudhir Vasudeva, ONGC's chairman and managing director, refused to comment on the development and its impact on the company. “I have not seen any such order so far. I do not want to comment,” he said.
Exploration and production companies have two types of operations, process platform and drilling, for which they seek services of players like Global Vectra and Pawan Hans. These players help shuttle engineers or officials to process platforms and back.
Civil aviation secretary Nasim Zaidi confirmed the home ministry had withdrawn the security clearance to directors of Global Vectra Helicorp Limited. He said the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) would take appropriate action in the matter but refused to elaborate. DGCA
E K Bharat Bhushan said he was still to receive a letter from the civil aviation ministry in this regard.
ONGC has eight helicopters from Global Vectra, providing services to its offshore facilities. Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited, where ONGC holds 49 per cent stake, has 12-13 helicopters operating for ONGC.
For about a decade, Global Vectra and Pawan Hans have been providing offshore helicopter services to ONGC. Contracts cover flying of staff from Juhu airport in Mumbai to offshore platforms and flights between various rigs. Earlier, Global Vectra had the contract of transporting staff from Juhu to the platforms but this year it was selected for both airport platforms and intra rig flights. Global Vectra provides six Bell 412 and AW 139 helicopters.
In 2010, ONGC introduced a condition that helicopters used for offshore flights have to be less than five years old, said an official in the know of the decision. Due to which, several of Pawan Hans' Dauphin N helicopters couldn’t be used for offshore activities, as most are 15-20 years old.
Last year, Pawan Hans acquired seven new Dauphin N3 helicopters as part of a fleet augmentation plan and these choppers are now being used for offshore services.
Executives of RIL, GSPC and BG said this move on the government's part would impact their operations but refused to divulge further details.
“It is not that these exploration and production companies will not have a solution. Temporarily, there could be a slight impact on their operations. But there will be no vacuum. They could look at other service providers to fill the gaps till new contracts are issued,” said a senior executive from a helicopter charter company.
A civil aviation ministry official said Pawan Hans might have to operate additional flights if Global Vectra's operations are suspended. Pawan Hans has an operational fleet of 45 helicopters.
Home ministry clearance is required for appointment of board members in airlines or non-scheduled operators, including charter companies. In the absence of a valid security clearance, the DGCA permit would stand suspended, aviation sources said. Ravinder Kumar Rishi of the Vectra Group resigned from the directorship of the company in November and his daughter, Swati Rishi, was inducted in the board.