Kochi: The team investigating the blast on the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation’s (ONGC) drill ship ‘Sagar Bhushan’ at the Cochin Shipyard here on Tuesday, in which five workers were killed, will look into the sabotage angle as well, it was learnt.
The Ministry of Defense has instructed the country’s top security and intelligence agencies and the Forensic Sciences Department to conduct a detailed probe into the incident. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have already started collecting evidence from the site.
The probe will also look into all of the facts and circumstances related to the proximity of the dry dock of the shipyard, where the blast occurred, to the Southern Naval Command headquarters, and the incident’s impact on the ONGC's high-priority offshore exploration in the south Bay of Bengal.
The ill-fated drill vessel Sagar Bhushan, which has been dry-docked at the yard for nearly two months now, is capable of drilling wells with water depth of 20,000 meters. A drill vessel with similar capacities hired by the ONGC for its deep-water operations costs the company a rent of $72.30 million for a period of three years.
The accident came as a heavy blow for the central public sector enterprise which was planning to complete the repair works of Sagar Bhushan and make it fully operational before the expiry of the three-year drilling contract period.
The ONGC is one of the few gas companies which has not cut down on its capital investments for drilling and allied operations despite the slump in the prices of unrefined fuel in the international market.
In 2017, when the ONGC floated a tender to hire two deepwater drilling vessels to carry out operations in the Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin in the Bay of Bengal, as many as ten international offshore drilling contractors had participated in the bidding process. In the end, a $118 million contract was awarded to the US-based Vantage Drilling International.
The blast in a ballast tank of Sagar Bhushan occurred at a time when lease contracts with foreign agencies were approaching the expiration date.
The ONGC’s two anchor moored drill ships built in Japan - Sagar Vijay and Sagar Bhushan – have been undergoing repairs in Cochin Shipyard since 1990, and Tuesday’s explosion was the first accident involving these vessels.
Recent accidents in shipyards due to gas leak
May 7, 2017: Cartagena Shipyard, Colombia. Six killed
July 29, 2017: Haifa Bay Shipyard, Israel. Four killed
August 20, 2017: STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, South Korea. Four killed
February 13, 2018: Cochin Shipyard. Five killed