Sonangol hires helicopter firms to restructure air division

Angola settles oil block dispute with $350m payment

Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, on Thursday said it has signed an agreement with two helicopter transport firms, Heliconia and Canada’s CHC, to restructure its aviation subsidiary, SonAir.

The agreement will urgently seek solutions for offering transport services to oil companies in Angola, which previously used SonAir’s helicopters to fly personnel to offshore platforms.

Employees of oil companies in Angola increasingly travel out to platforms by boat due to safety concerns around Super Puma helicopters, which SonAir has in its fleet, and the high cost of services provided by SonAir, leaving aircraft grounded.

Two types of Super Puma, a workhorse of the offshore oil industry, were banned from commercial traffic in Norway and Britain for more than a year after a 2016 accident that killed 13 people flying from a Norwegian offshore oil platform.

A flight between Luanda and Houston which was operated by SonAir has also been cancelled.

The memorandum of understanding signed by Sonangol will have two phases – the first to conduct an internal audit and evaluation of SonAir’s structure and services.

This “may, after analysis, dictate the formation of a consortium between those foreign companies and the Sonangol aviation company, mainly aimed at relaunching its activities,” the statement said.

Sonangol is increasingly looking to move away from non-core activities to focus on oil production, having invested in diverse areas of the Angolan economy during the oil boom, ranging from real estate to banking. Many of these businesses have been loss-making.

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