The name reflects our ever-expanding field of responsibility. In 2018, we were delegated regulatory responsibility for safety and working environment issues linked to CO2 transport and storage, in 2020 for offshore renewable energy production, and in 2022 for seabed minerals. However, most of our efforts continue to focus on the safety and working environment of all those in the oil and gas sector on the Norwegian shelf and onshore facilities.

Our new name appears exactly 20 years after the Petroleum Safety Authority (PSA) was split from the Petroleum Directorate (NPD) as a separate agency. The NPD had been responsible for both safety and resource management on the Norwegian shelf since 1972. We now have more than 50 years’ experience as a safety authority. 

Our goal is the same as before – to safeguard the lives and health of everyone encompassed by our supervisory regime. We shall continue to be a strong and clear regulator and a professionally competent directorate.

Troubled times

We face a challenging global security situation. Europe is reliant on secure and stable supplies of Norwegian gas. Threat levels will remain high for the foreseeable future, and both industry and the authorities must adapt their priorities and actions to a new reality. These changes have led to a greater focus on security, critical infrastructure, insider risk and cybersecurity. We have regularly communicated situation status both to the companies and other authorities. We have conducted safety audits pursuant to the Petroleum Act since 2013, and in 2023 we were delegated regulatory responsibility pursuant to the Security Act.

Moreover, in the summer of 2023, overall administration of the PSA was transferred from the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion to the former Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (now the Ministry of Energy). Prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the following in connection with this transfer:

“By transferring responsibility for the Petroleum Safety Authority to the Ministry for Petroleum and Energy we are consolidating our preventive safety activities within the petroleum sector. This will give us a clearer and more robust and integrated petroleum management regime. The current global security situation clearly demonstrates the need for such an integrated approach in order to protect our national security interests in the petroleum sector.”

Improvement and challenges

Data from Trends in Risk Level (RNNP) show for the most part stable or positive trends in indicators related to petroleum activities. The key exception is that in 2023, we saw an increase in incidents with an inherent major accident potential. It is important to emphasise that stable development is conditional on a systematic approach to improvement in safety.

Many key topics are presented in this report. I want, in particular, to emphasise risk and barrier management, which are fundamental to accident prevention at our facilities and installations. Closely linked to this is maintenance management. Barriers must be maintained if they are to be fit for purpose. It is also essential that companies operate safely as robust organisations with the capacity and competence needed to handle unwanted situations. They must have adequate personnel to ensure that individuals are not overworked. We conduct audits with these and many other fields in the course of a year. Our findings indicate that much is satisfactory. But we are still finding regulatory nonconformities that we would expect the companies themselves to have identified. There is no cause to relax our work to promote improvement.

The close of 2022 saw a record number of submissions of plans for development and operation on the Norwegian shelf. These plans must now be implemented. It is vital to learn lessons from previous projects and ensure responsible management right from the start. Late-stage remediation has implications for both costs and safety during start-up.

Regulatory developments in new fields

In 2023, regulations governing safety and the working environment linked to offshore renewable energy production were sent for consultation. They were developed in close dialogue with the industry, and it took some time to complete the work. The result is a set of risk-based regulations tailored to the sector they are designed to regulate.

Regulations governing CO2 transport and storage came into force in 2020. Our responsibility covers the final stage of the system for carbon capture and storage (CCS). We keep a close eye on new concepts and developing technologies and will ensure that both the regulations and our supervisory activities are updated.

In 2022, Havtil was delegated regulatory responsibility for safety and working environment issues linked to seabed mineral recovery. Parliament has recently given the green light to seabed mining on the Norwegian shelf, and we will start the process of regulatory development during 2024.

Collectively and concurrently

Our 2023 main theme was ‘Safe and stable energy development – collectively and concurrently’. This reflects intense activity in the petroleum sector, concurrent with the development of new ocean industries. Safety is key, together with the implementation of new security measures. It is important to understand and manage risk, both individually and collectively. An integrated preventive approach is crucial, and collaboration is essential. We coordinate the tripartite Safety and Regulatory Forums, which bring industry actors together. We also collaborate with a number of other regulatory authorities, both in Norway and overseas. We are facing major challenges that can only be resolved by working together.

New strategy

In 2023, we launched a new strategy for Havtil. Our overall vision is that we will be ‘A strong and clear supervisory authority for all ocean industries’. Our goal is to be an effective organisation and competent centre of expertise, working closely with industrial development.

The government has stated that Norway shall be a world-leader in health, safety and the environment in all aspects of Havtil’s field of responsibility. This challenging statement demands commitment. 

Assessment of future prospects

Havtil has launched a new strategy for the period 2024–2027. The strategy identifies essential changes in response to a changed security situation, rapid industrial development and our broader mandate.

Our aim is to be an effective organisation. To achieve this, we will be making organisational adjustments in 2024. We are adapting and improving as a regulatory authority and directorate – expanding our processes for the selection and use of regulatory measures. Key to this is recruitment and the retention and targeted development of Havtil’s skills and expertise. Our employees are our most important resource.

Our goal is to develop in close step with industrial trends. Our regulations and supervisory approach will be relevant and adapted to new technologies and solutions.  One example is the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (AI). We have launched a multi-year project looking into the safety-related impacts of AI and the need for regulatory development in this field.

Havtil’s aim is to be a preferred centre of expertise, promoting collaboration and knowledge sharing between industry and the authorities, and using our expertise to promote integrated solutions. This is key in a societal security perspective.

The industry must also adapt to prolonged high threat levels. Our facilities, installations and ICT systems must be made secure. We must collaborate in new ways and in new fields. It is important to understand and manage risk, both individually and collectively, and it is vital to adopt an integrated preventive approach.

Our main theme for 2024 is ‘Don’t forget the working environment’. We are asking companies to step up their focus on the roles of individuals and the working environment. No-one shall be sick or suffer injury at work. A good working environment is prerequisite for good health and for ensuring that all barriers are fit for purpose and serious errors are avoided. The working environment is part of management’s overall responsibilities. We anticipate that our theme will promote reflection, discussion and action.

We have a new name. We have a new strategy and are in the process of making organisational adjustments. All this will equip us as a regulatory authority and directorate for the Norwegian offshore industries as we enter a future full of known and unknown challenges.

Government’s ambition is that Norway shall be a world-leader in health, safety and the environment in all aspects of Havtil's field of responsibility. High levels of safety are prerequisite for the continuation of petroleum activities and new industrial development on the Norwegian shelf. This will entail a thorough and systematic approach. High levels of safety must be integrated into new technologies, planned for in new projects and operations, and monitored by robust processes.

Primary responsibility for safety, security and the working environment lies with the companies. The Norwegian regime, with its function-based regulations, clear delegation of responsibility and collaborative approach, represents a robust foundation for facing our future challenges.