ONGC must relax outdated helicopter terms

Vol 15, PW 23 (31 May 12) Exploration & Production

State-owned Pawan Hans and ‘blacklisted’ Global Vectra have long dominated ONGC helicopter tenders.

Yet smaller helicopter providers think it’s high time this changed and calls are growing for ONGC to remove restrictive tender terms, especially now when it urgently needs to replace eight helicopters on hire from BSE-listed Global Vectra whose operating permit and security clearances were abruptly cancelled on May 7. New tenders from ONGC are expected soon to replace the Vectra helicopters, used for crew changes at Mumbai High offshore platforms and operations in the eastern offshore.

Pawan Hans, 40% owned by ONGC, traditionally wins most of its production helicopter tenders, while Vectra usually wins crew change tenders. A small operator alleges these tenders are routinely rigged.

In an ONGC production helicopter tender held in 2010, he says, ONGC demanded bidders must have 5800 hours average annual offshore flying experience during the previous three years. But in a similar production helicopter tender in 2011, we hear, ONGC arbitrarily reduced this demand to 3600 hours.

Similarly, a crew change helicopter tender in 2010 saw ONGC demanding 4500 hours of experience but the next year it reduced this to 2880 hours. “Only Pawan Hans and Vectra have this experience,” adds a source.

“Annual average flying hours are different for these tenders. You naturally suspect they were framed to favour a particular operator.

” Deccan Charters, Heligo Charters, United Helicharters, Swajas Air Charters and Arc1Charters are among the smaller domestic helicopter providers pushed out by ONGC’s restrictive terms. Only by partnering experienced foreign companies can they meet the strict criteria.