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Sunk ONGC Barge Had Safety, Seaworthiness Certificates: Minister

'The specifications of the barge were reviewed and technical acceptance was given by Engineers India Ltd, a Government of India Enterprise,'

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Barge Papaa-305, which sank off the Mumbai coast in May killing more than 80 onboard, had all the safety and sea worthiness certificates when it met with the accident, junior oil minister Rameswar Teli told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

On May 16, Cyclone Tauktae -- a storm with the intensity of a category 3 hurricane -- tore apart Barge Papaa 305's anchors and slammed it into an offshore platform, taking down 261 people on board. Many of them were rescued.

'The Barge Papaa-305 was built in the year of 2004,' he said in a written reply to a question in the Upper House of Parliament.

Indian regulations allow seaworthy barges to operate for as long as 35 years.

'The specifications of the barge were reviewed and technical acceptance was given by Engineers India Ltd, a Government of India Enterprise,' the Minister said.

'As per standard protocol, a joint safety audit of the Barge Papaa-305 was carried on October 23, 2020 by a team consisting of representatives of ONGC, Safety Officer from Certification of Engineers India Limited (CEIL), Master Mariner from Indian Register of Shipping (IRS), and Contractor's Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) representative.

'The said Barge had all necessary statutory certificates required for sea worthiness for carrying out the intended operation,' he said.

The barge was hired by Afcons Infrastructure, an engineering company owned by billionaire Pallonji Mistry's Shapoorji Pallonji Group. Afcons was working on state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation's (ONGC) fields in Mumbai offshore.

Afcons was the main contractor for the jobs of fixing decays and painting rusted pipes and metals in order to protect the structures from the corrosive onslaught of the sea.

'ONGC issued cheques of Rs 1 lakh to each 188 survivors families as immediate relief and Rs 2 lakh to families of 86, who died. The total amount of relief extended is Rs 3.6 crore,' Teli said.

He said based on weather considerations, ONGC had advised Barges Papaa-305 to move out of the field. The barge had also confirmed that it was moving out of the field.

However, it moved only a small distance and was caught in the cyclone.

'The Government has constituted a High-Level Committee to enquire into the sequence of the events leading to the stranding of vessels and accidents,' he said.

Giving chronological details of the communications from ONGC to all installations regarding cyclone Tauktae, he said the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued the first advisory on the cyclone at 14:00 hours on May 11.

The next day, the IMD advisory was discussed in the Joint Operation Review Meeting (JORM) of Mumbai Offshore, ONGC and all installations, rigs, vessels were asked to take action and due precautions as per the emergency response plan.

On May 13, 'all barges in the field were instructed by respective installations over radio communication to plan for movement to a safe location, in view of the impending cyclone,' he said. 'ONGC asked all the barges in the field to move to safe locations (on May 14).'


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