Friday, August 6, 2010

Disaster Offshore India

The monsoon season and offshore activities are routine and normal for all offshore personnel. The Divers, Mariners and Logistic support personnel were all individually and collectively carrying out offshore operations.Their collective efforts were producing positive results. A sense of satisfaction prevailed among them. As it happened in the past when weather played havoc and things took dramatic turns damaging offshore installations, equipments and materials.

The offshore personnel did carryout their task in the face of harsh climatic conditions and rough weather to achieve desired results. However, it was the ill fated day of July 25th 2005 when South west monsoon was at its peak in Mumbai, a commercial capital situated on the west coast of India. The fury of nature was so severe and intense that it unleashed the rain that did not stop for 10 hours pouring 975 millimetres of rain. It inundated many apartments up to first floor level. It disrupted normal life as most of the telephone and power lines were damaged. Many people stranded in their respective places as all trains, buses, etc. remained non-operational.

The offshore oil field which is situated at about 150 Kilo metres away in the directions West North West from mainland was also experiencing very rough weather. A Multi Support Vessel was also carrying out its diving operations at a satellite platform. It was the human error and bad luck for a cook who severed his finger. It required immediate medical help. There was no doctor onboard. The day Master took a decision and abandoned diving operation. He also called the controlling platform for evacuation of the patient. The weather and sea conditions did not permit helicopter to land on board. Hence permission was granted and the vessel proceeded towards controlling platform for passenger transfer.

The weather condition was such that the swell height was 20-25 feet and continual squall and rain reduced the visibility to the barest minimum. The vessel positioned on the south face, abreast of the platform.The platform crane lowered the personnel basket and the cook was lifted up from the deck. At that crucial and critical moment, the vessel behaved in a very unusual manner. It made a contact with the platform and ruptured a 14"Gas Riser (Pipe carrying Gas). The phenomenal volume of Gas leak caught instant fire and the platform was engulfed in flames. The sequence of damage was so severe that oil carrying riser was also damaged leaking a lot of oil into the vicinity of the ill fated platform.

The chaos and commotion were taking its toll. The prevailing weather was adding fuel to fire. The People abandoned the platform and the ship. Life boats were launched and some people jumped into the sea. It was the old ship, and it has open life boats.The flames were very high reaching a height of approximately 500 feet.The debris was flying all-round. All offshore personnel remain adrift for few hours prior to been rescued by other vessels.The other unlucky one lost their life without any traced. Some dead bodies were also recovered subsequently.

The ship was burning and drifting. The diving superintendent took all possible measures pressurized to a maximum depth for safe recovery of divers in case the ship sinks. The Divers who were in the saturation chambers were left to their fate. However, destiny played a major role and luck was on their side. While the ship was a still burning and decompression process started. When they reached 30 metres of depth they were brought out safely and transferred to another diving vessel. They were finally brought ashore and told the trauma of seeing death in front of their eyes. The news flashed all over the world as it was the major oil platform disaster in the history of offshore oil industry in the world. On the other hand; the families were in a dilemma as no news of survivors could reach them until late in the evening.

It was the bad decision of one man that cost a huge loss of men and material, besides putting the financial burden on the Oil Company and reduction in production. Eventually, the ship sank and with it lost the vital clue. The sequence of events was never reconstructed and no debriefing was held. Hence all facts and figures were remained in the dark.

The trauma faced by the families was full of misery and hardship. The affected families and survivors were never been compensated as expected. The meager amount of compensation has not only been pathetic but also an insult to the humanity. It would have been better if things were more transparent and honestly made public. The inefficiency, careless attitude and corrupt practices of oil company personnel were the root cause of the disaster, consequently, affecting survivors and those families who lost the bread earners.

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