Historical archive

The pioneer divers

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion

The Norwegian government has taken responsibility for the pioneer divers at a moral and political basis, but has not acknowledged any legal responsibilities for the damage that has been inflicted upon the pioneer divers. Whether or not one is legally liable in accordance with compensation law regulations is a question for a court of law to decide. As of today, several divers have chosen to take their cases to court.

 The Norwegian government has taken responsibility for the pioneer divers at a moral and political basis, but has not acknowledged any legal responsibilities for the damage that has been inflicted upon the pioneer divers. Whether or not one is legally liable in accordance with compensation law regulations is a question for a court of law to decide. As of today, several divers have chosen to take their cases to court. 

During the past few years there has been a certain media focus regarding the North Sea pioneer divers, who claim that the diving activity in the pioneer period (1965-1990) was negligent with regards to safety. Several of the divers have sued the Norwegian State claiming compensation due to the health injuries they sustained while diving in the North Sea. The court case relating to one group of divers has been tried by all norwegian courts and the Norwegian Supreme court issued a ruling 8. October 2009 stating that the state is not legally liable to pay damages to 4 divers who have been injured during their career as divers on the Norwegian continental shelf. An English version of this ruling is attached. As to the other group of divers their case has been appealed to the Norwegian Appeal court following a court ruling 9. September 2008.

The Norwegian state has not denied that divers have been injured as a consequence of diving in relation to the petroleum activity in the North Sea during the pioneer period. This is also well documented in The White paper No 47 presented to the Parliament in 2003. In the mentioned White paper the state admits a responsibility on the basis of moral and political aspects, but does not acknowledge any legal liability. Pursuant to decision of the Parliament, the Norwegian government on the 2nd of March 2001 appointed an independent Commission of enquiry to investigate all circumstances related to diving in the North Sea during the pioneer period. The commission drew its conclusions based on information collected from public and private archives and in addition they gathered information among the divers through interviews and written statements. Based on the findings and the assessments of the Commission, the Parliament established at particular compensation scheme form from which the pioneer divers may attain a compensation of 2 500 000 Norwegian crowns, and an additional 200 000 Norwegian crowns for damages for non-economic loss. The Norwegian Government has also taken several other actions regarding the pioneer divers.

Diving in the pioneer period has been assessed by an independent Commission of Inquiry which has resulted in a report, NOU 2003:5 with a Summary in English. The circumstances that were established in the mentioned report were furthermore used by the Government during the follow up on the divers’ trough White Paper No 47 and the subsequent motion by the Parliament. The commissions report was submitted to all relevant parties for comments and the comments were enclosed to the White Paper as a printed enclosure.

The government as well as the Parliament has recognized that several pioneer divers are struggling with severe medical complications. As a consequence the Parliament decided that the pioneer divers should be granted a collective recognition and compensation as to their efforts in the North Sea from 1965 to 1990. Among other reasons, The Parliament founded their decision on the fact that diving in the pioneer period was extreme and epoch-making, the knowledge of diving was not as good as to day and part of the activity was insufficiently regulated.


• In 1999 there was agreed upon a contract with the hospital of Haukeland regarding an examination of the pioneer divers. The hospital are providing expertise from the most important expert groups, including professions from neurology, neurophysiology, ear- nose- and throat as well as specialist within the field of lung medicine.

• During 2000 to 2002, The Ministry of Health and Care Services paid up to 200 000 Norwegian crowns to 123 pioneer divers with permanent health failure, and therefore reduced income possibilities.

• In addition, there has been established an immediately help arrangement to assist divers that are finding themselves in a difficult situation regarding their finances. The establishment has authorities to distribute as much as 300 000 Norwegian crowns to each diver.

• The Contact for divers was established in 2003. This is an establishment where the divers can get help with financial planning, as well as health- and social questions. These services are free of charge.

• The Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) has passed a motion regarding a particular compensation arrangement. Every pioneer diver may attain a compensation of 2 500 000 Norwegian crowns, and an additional 200 000 Norwegian crowns for damages for non-economic loss. This is a significantly higher amount than any other groups have received as a nonrecurring payment. The compensation has as of today been given to more than 200 divers or surviving relatives of deceased divers. There has not been demanded any extensive evidence or documentation from the divers precede the disbursement of funds.

• The Norwegian government has in addition paid approximate 8 500 000 Norwegian crowns to those who have assisted the pioneer divers in forwarding their demands.                 

In addition to the above mentioned divers have received compensation from private insurance schemes, national social insurance schemes for occupational injury and a special compensation arrangement administered by STATOIL.

The Ministry has received a large number of notices to produce documents for inspection and as a result the divers have been granted access to public documentation in accordance with the relevant legislation. Due to this, the divers have received large number of documents which comprise all public information relevant to diving in the pioneer period.

On different occasions it has been alleged that 40 % of all pioneer divers died, and that 96 % of the divers have gotten their quality of life considerably diminished. Unfortunately it is difficult to produce accurate an undisputed figures on this area, but based on the figures in the report from the Commission of enquiry 17 divers died on the Norwegian continental shelf. In the same period it is registered approximately 365 persons diving on a permanent basis on the Norwegian continental shelf. Of a total of 235 divers whom answered on a questionnaire 139 (approximately 60 %) were employed in permanent positions. Less than 20 % of the divers received disability pension.