Afcons blames weather, master of P305 for tragedy near ONGC platform

Conditions deteriorated rapidly reaching levels far worse than predicted on May 17, it says

ONGC’s contractor Afcons Infrastructure Ltd, the Shapoorji Pallonji Group company, said it was unpredictable bad weather and the decision of the master of the barge P305 to stay put in high sea that led to the tragedy in the Arabian Sea.

Also read: 11 more bodies recovered from sunk Barge P-305, toll goes up to 37

“On May 14 2021 itself, all our vessels were advised to secure their respective work locations and move to safe location at the earliest. Accordingly, all vessels and barges, including P305, commenced moving out of their work locations on May 14 & 15 2021,” the Afcons said on Thursday.

It said while other barges moved to Mumbai Port, Mumbai Outer Anchorage or Anchorage close to Revandanda, the Master of P305 chose to move 200 meters away from the HT platform where the Barge P305 was working.

Safe location

To remain at that location, the Master decided this as a safe location since the max predicted wind speed was only 40 Knots and his location was 120 NM away from the eye of the tropical storm, Afcons said.

Also read: Panel to probe stranding of ONGC vessels during Taukte

“Unfortunately, the weather conditions deteriorated rapidly from the evening of May 16 2021, reaching levels far worse than predicted on May 17, 2021. The sudden deterioration of weather left no time at all for any further action to be taken by the Master of the vessel,” the company said.

Putting the blame on the owners of the vessel, it said “as per the normal marine protocol, as well as the specific charter agreement for P305, matters concerning vessel safety lie under the responsibility of the Owner/Barge Master, who is in the best position to decide on the appropriate course of action regarding vessel safety, as he has the necessary skill sets as well as the understanding of his vessel and its equipment, under the prevailing local conditions”.

It said to secure the vessels and bring the people onboard to the shore, Afcons had chartered the vessel from Durmast. “Charting is not same as subcontracting. Durmast is the owner and the responsibility for marine operations rests with the vessel owner and his marine crew stationed on the vessel. Afcons, as charterer deploys its construction workmen and supervisors, who stay on the barge and carry out construction/revamp work on the platform,” it said.

As per the international standard vessel chartering terms which was adopted for the charter of P305, the responsibility for the marine side of the operations namely safe vessel operation, navigation and vessel management come under the scope of work of the vessel owners, carried out through the Master, officers, and the crew appointed by the owner.

On the reason for not evacuating people on the barges post the alert, it said evacuation was an extreme step only resorted to in case the vessel was in distress.

Standard practice

It said no specific warning alert was made for the location off the coast of Mumbai. “A standard practice of offshore contractors is to obtain weather forecast for the work location from well-known weather forecasters, which are typically issued twice a day, and provide weather forecasts for the next seven days. Marine as well as construction operations are planned based on the above location-specific forecasts. The same practice was followed by Afcons.

It said the weather forecasts received on May 14 from the service provider predicted that sustained wind speed of maximum 40 knots and precautionary measures were taken.

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