CGSB officials suspended because 86 deaths confirmed in Mumbai High tragedy
Three senior officials from India’s state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have been suspended in connection with the investigation into the sinking of ships at its Mumbai High field off the west coast of India, which has claimed the lives of 86 people.
The three executive directors of the CGSB, who are respectively in charge of drilling, security and exploration, according to local media, have been suspended as the Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas investigates the fatal incidents of the Cyclone Tauktee.
Afcons’ barge Papaa 305, which had 261 workers on board when the cyclone struck, capsized and sank, killing 75 people. Eleven other crew members of the tug Varapradha also perished when it also sank after last month’s cyclone passed through the fields of ONGC at Mumbai High.
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The high-level ministerial inquiry is investigating evidence, including an email correspondence from a P 305 officer noting that private weather forecaster Storm Geo was warning of a cyclone in the “west coast / high region of Mumbai”. This correspondence was shared with officials at ONGC, which owns key production and exploration assets at Mumbai High, reported The Indian Express.
However, the P 305 and two other Afcons barges supporting a platform refurbishment program at Mumbai High were not strayed from the path of the deadly cyclone.
Some CGSB officers have spoken out against the suspension of their colleagues as the official government investigation has yet to come to any conclusions.
The Association of Scientific and Technical Officials (ASTO), which has approximately 20,000 CGSB officers and engineers, has called for disciplinary action against the three CGSB officials to be dropped.
In a strongly worded letter to the CEO of the oil company, ASTO wrote: “The point is that there were 22 barges working for ONGC… 19 of them adhered to the ONGC weather advisory. but not the three barges belonging to Afcons.
“It is no coincidence that the three barges are owned by Afcons because this company has repeatedly violated safety and human rights standards and has little respect for the safe practices of ONGC …”
Regarding the allegations, a spokesperson for Afcons said: “The letter makes several unsubstantiated and factually incorrect allegations against Afcons, all of which are belied by the voluminous documentary evidence on file which Afcons has already submitted to the high level committee. who is investigating this incident.
“The letter is full of erroneous allegations, including that the barges chartered by Afcons did not leave the operational area on time. It is well known and documented that all the barges mapped by Afcons were ordered to demobilize from the work area and did so before May 14 and 15, well before the onset of the full fury of Cyclone Tauktae ” , reported The Indian Express.
The P 305 was struck by winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour and waves between six and eight meters high, which saw the barge lose all of its anchors. The vessel drifted from the location, then struck one of CGSB’s unmanned platforms, causing water to seep, before the P 305 capsized and subsequently sank.
“In this fight against the ferocity of nature, the employees on board showed exemplary courage and continued their efforts to steer the barges and [the] rig to security with functionality shot, ”CGSB said earlier.
Known survivors of the hapless P 305 included engineers, riggers, welders and firefighters employed by contractors Afcons, Fugro, Sinai Maritime, IRS, Papaa Shipping and Matthews; and a nurse from Iindoworld.
All 101 staff on board the CGSB drilling vessel Sagar Bhushan and the 339 workers on the chartered barges from Afcons Support Station-3 and GAL Constructor were safely rescued after Cyclone Tauktae hit.