Rescue at sea in the nick of time

Kenneth Nordboe

by Jan Hester

Working at ConocoPhillips’ Ekofisk complex, located in the North Sea offshore Norway, requires a 24/7 commitment to working safely and ensuring everyone at the facility follows the company’s Life Saving Rules. Regular drills are a fact of life, including water rescues in a range of weather conditions.

Fortunately for two fishermen in a life-threatening situation, Ekofisk 2/4 Kilo-Bravo Maintenance Mechanic Kenneth Nordboe happened to have the right skills at the right time. For his quick response to a capsized boat off the coast of Norway, Kenneth was awarded a 2019 ConocoPhillips Lifesaver SPIRIT Award.

Kenneth joined the company in 1987 and has worked on the Ekofisk 2/4 Kilo-Bravo platform for the past ten years. After starting out on Albuskjell 1/6 Alfa and working 18 years in the turbine department repairing rotating equipment, he now works as a general mechanic on all types of equipment.

Kenneth in a MOB — man overboard — boat. The boat is lowered from the platform to the water for exercises and incidents.

“I like working there. It’s a good place, and I really appreciate the two weeks on and four weeks off schedule. Phillips 66/ConocoPhillips has been a great, steady employer.”

On one of his days away from work, Kenneth, who lives near the sea on Norway’s west coast, rode his bicycle from his home to the small harbor where he keeps his boat.

“When I jumped off the bicycle, I noticed a car behind me. The woman who was driving said she had gotten a call from her son, who works on a boat in Bergen. He had heard a distress call on the radio and was afraid it was his father. He mentioned the name of a nearby island.”

The woman asked Kenneth, who was accompanied by a friend, if he could take his boat out to investigate.

Kenneth’s water safety expertise kicked into high gear.

“I jumped in the boat, turned on the radio and heard a broadcast from the Sola rescue center/coast radio south (near Stavanger) about an ongoing action. Two men were out with a 35-foot fishing boat that was taking on water and sinking. We knew roughly where they were and headed that direction.”

Kenneth (left) and Egil Nordfonn, with the Ekofisk Kilo-Bravo platform in the background. Kenneth found the MOB training very useful when he was called on to rescue the two men in the fishing boat.

After a few minutes, they spotted a rescue helicopter and headed toward it.

“There were two men in the water, wearing boots and rain gear, hanging onto a floating wooden cargo frame that had been in the boat. They had been testing the hydraulic system when the boat started taking on water. The pumps couldn’t handle the volume of water, so the boat filled up and rolled onto its side.”

The two people had been in the water 30 to 40 minutes. Although it was June, and the water temperature was warmer than normal, it was still a chilly 15 degrees Centigrade (59 Fahrenheit).

Kenneth was notified by radio that the helicopter’s winch mechanism had failed and was asked to assist with rescuing the men.

“We spotted them in the water, went alongside, and pulled the two guys into my boat. We gave them blankets to warm them and took them straight to the harbor. The helicopter, with a medic onboard, followed and landed. The medic checked them out, and they didn’t have to go to a hospital.”

As it turned out, Kenneth knew the two men. “It’s very special to rescue friends. I’ve known people before who didn’t survive.”

By saving the lives of these two people in distress, Kenneth exemplifies how ConocoPhillips people live their commitment to safety — on and off the job.