Oil giant BP is cutting 4,000 jobs in response to plummeting oil prices. Many of the cuts will focus on the company's North Sea operations, where 600 workers will lose their jobs, or a third of the work force.

With both West Texas Intermediate and Brent Crude, the two main oil benchmarks, trading below $32 (£22.20, €29.50), their lowest level since 2003, the company is attempting to cut costs. All positions axed are in BP's upstream drilling and exploration business, the company said.

"We want to simplify structure and reduce costs without compromising safety," a spokesman said in a statement. "Globally, we expect the headcount in upstream to be below 20,000 by the end of the year."

The cuts will shrink BP's upstream workforce from 24,000 to 20,000 by December 2017. The company's total workforce is around 80,000. Despite the job cuts, BP said it would invest $4bn in its North Sea operations.

The company employs around 3,000 people in the UK, with its Scotland-based staff most at risk of losing their jobs.

Oil producers are struggling to deal with the crisis brought on by a slump in oil prices of 70%, from more than $105 per barrel in June 2014. On 12 January, the Royal Bank of Scotland warned oil prices could fall to as little as $16 a barrel.

BP's North Sea operations lost 5,500 jobs in 2015 as a result of the price slump. An Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce survey found 85% of North Sea oil workers feared for their job in 2016.