Tromsø mayor sees more oil rigs in the port’s future

The Polar Pioneer, a mobile oil rig, anchored in the port of Tromsø

Arild Hausberg says the Polar Pioneer, a mobile oil rig owned by Transocean currently anchored in Tromsø, is a symbol of things to come.


The mayor of Tromsø says the oil rig has brought much business to the city’s hotels, which are housing close to 250 maintenance workers from other parts of Norway and around the world, as well as local suppliers.

The Polar Pioneer arrived in Tromsø on May 5 for what was initially projected as two weeks of maintenance work. After initial repairs were made, BP officials announced the oil rig, which is scheduled to take over from the rig Borgland Dolphin in the Skarv field, will remain anchored in Tromsø for a few more weeks.

Strong symbolism
But the symbolic value of the oil rig’s presence in Tromsø is especially significant, Hausberg said.

- This shows the oil industry and ourselves that we are capable to take a big platform and serve it here in Tromsø for many weeks.

When Statoil engineers discovered the Skrugard prospect in the Norwegian Continental Shelf earlier this year, it indicated Norway’s offshore drilling operations will move northward. That also meant more development prospects for cities like Tromsø.

- It was just like switching a key, because everyone believes now that the oil industry will move North and maybe go faster than we have believed before. There will be many Skrugards in the future.

Upgrading infrastructure
If Tromsø hopes to harbor more mobile oil rigs in the future, Hausberg said the city will have to upgrade its infrastructure.

- We have to have a bigger harbor and we are planning for that. The city will also have to update the services it can directly provide to the petroleum industry.

Hausberg says he has been meeting with representatives from oil companies as well as local businesses and organizations to discuss plans to build specialized training facilities in Tromsø. These would help build up the local workforce so that companies would not have to fly in as many specialists from other parts of Norway.

Some local businesses created uproar in local newspapers, claiming they were not given the opportunity to benefit from the oil rig’s presence. Hausberg says future projects will be less exclusive.

At a seminar organized by the Norwegian Oil Industry Association last week, officials said several port cities were considered before Tromsø was chosen to harbor the oil rig for repair.The city’s hotel capacity was a deciding factor.

Officials also indicated that each day the Polar Pioneer is anchored in Tromsø costs BP millions in Norwegian kroner. The Borgland Dolphin is licensed to operate in the Skarv field for three more weeks, after which the Polar Pioneer will take over.