sexta-feira, 12 de junho de 2015

Failure to comply with safety procedures caused explosion on Norwegian oil vessel in Espírito Santo

Yesterday (11/6/15), exactly four months after the platform vessel Cidade de São Mateus exploded  40 km offshore of Aracruz, Espírito Santo, Petrobras released a press note informing that noncompliance with operational safety procedures was the main reason of the accident that caused 9 deaths. The vessel is owned and operated by Norwegian company BW Offshore on behalf of oil-giant Petrobras.

The technical report has been forwarded by Petrobras to Brazilian oil agency ANP, Federal and Civil Polices. Petrobras also stated that "the information that we had been previously warned about such failures is incorrect", thus indirectly ascribing the Norwegian company full responsibility over the accident.

FPSO Cidade de São Mateus: failure to comply with safety standards caused gas explosion.
Photo: Capitania dos Portos do ES/Divulgação

Local standards of operation did not reflect HSE credentials of the Norwegian company

BW Offshore calls itself "the specialist FPSO building, leasing and operating company". The company claims to hold on to the best standards of Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) responsibility globally available. It holds certification to the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 (this one an internationally applied British Standard for occupational health and safety management systems), as well as a a Document of Compliance to the International Safety Management Code, an international standard for safe management and operation of ships and for pollution prevention. The FPSO Cidade de São Mateus had regular documentation attesting its operational safety, issued by oil agency ANP.

However, despite the colorful credentials held by the company, several noncompliances with operational safety standards were identified by the technical report, such as the installation of substandard parts that did not support the pressure level required by the system, lack of planning and risk analysis during the transfer of fluids between tanks, and lack of previous simulations and training to prepare the staff to this kind of situation. According to Petrobras, the emergency response's reading of the situation was wrong, and allowed the staff to enter the pump room for three times, despite the gas alarms having been triggered.

Outsourcing identified as underlying cause by labor union

Outsourcing has become a major trend in the oil&gas markets; in order to cut costs, several companies operate platforms and rigs through subcontracted smaller companies. This trend has led to the weakening of workers' rights and increased risk of operations, according to labor unions, as outsourced companies seldom have the same HSE credentials as their contractors. According to oil workers union Sindipetro/ES, among the 74 people that worked in the FPSO that exploded, only one was formally hired by Petrobras.

BW Offshore's operations had no technical term of responsibility

The Regional Board of Engineering in Espírito Santo (Crea-ES) also stated that BW Offshore's presence in Espirito Santo was irregular, as the company was not registered in Crea-ES, despite operating in the state with a large corp of engineers. Instead, the Norwegian company operated through its Brazilian subsidiary PPB do Brasil Serviços Marítimos, which also had several irregularities. According to Crea-ES, the subsidiary lacked a list of the technical staff operating on the vessel, and no operation carried out on the vessel had the required technical term of responsibility.

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