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Search for Gabon offshore worker ongoing after fatal Perenco fire

Business

The search for a missing offshore worker remains ongoing following a fatal fire at a Perenco-operated oil platform in Gabon.

Five workers died after a fire broke out on 20 March during a workover operation on the Becuna rig operated by Perenco Oil & Gas Gabon, with a sixth worker still missing.

In a statement, Perenco said the search for the missing person is still actively underway, with new land-based resources covering more than 56 miles of Gabon’s coastline.

The land-based search resources are in addition to the air and sea resources already mobilised at the Simba offshore oil field, the company said.

In addition, Perenco said international experts have arrived in the city of Port-Gentil to assist with the process of identifying those who died in the incident.

The experts are also working in close collaboration with the Gabonese authorities in charge of the investigation, Perenco said.

Perenco north sea © Supplied by Perenco
A Perenco worker.

The company said given the “technical complexity” of the incident, it will mobilise independent experts “specialising in the analysis of similar events” as investigations into the cause of the fire continue.

“The aim of this process is to determine the precise causes, circumstances and reasons, as yet undetermined, that led to this situation,” Perenco said.

“The safety of staff working on our sites is our absolute priority.

“We will do everything in our power to establish the cause of this accident, in collaboration with the Gabonese authorities, and take the necessary measures to ensure that it never happens again.”

Last week, Gabon’s Prime Minister and Minister for Petroleum travelled to the city of Port-Gentil for a memorial service to honour the victims.

Gabon offshore workers question safety

In the days since the incident, workers in the Gabonese oil industry have questioned the safety standards of Perenco’s operations in the country.

French public broadcaster France 24 spoke to five former workers at Perenco facilities in Gabon who criticised the company’s attitude to worker safety and said they worked in “fear”.

In the past, Perenco has also received criticism over its environmental record in Gabon.

Gabon’s oil worker union ONEP also recently accused Perenco of interfering in the “functioning of the union officials” and threatened strike action in December.

ONEP has also criticised the country’s transitional government for its “complicit silence” following the fire, calling on authorities to “end the misery of workers in the oil sector and related activities”.

In recent years, Perenco has expanded its offshore exploration in Gabon and the company is set to invest $1 billion in an LNG production facility in the country.

According to the African Energy Chamber, the Perenco-operated Simba field where the fire took place accounts for 4% of the country’s oil production alone.

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