Business, Finance & Economics

Kolskaya oil rig sinks, 50 feared dead


The Molikpaq offshore oil platform, near Sakhalin island, Far Eastern Russia, on April 27, 2003.



At least 50 people are feared dead after an oil drilling rig capsized and sank off the Russian island of Sakhalin today, Reuters reported. The Kolskaya rig, owned by Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka (AMNGR), a unit of state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft, was being towed through 20-foot waves in the Sea of Okhotsk in a winter storm when it overturned.

"The violation of safety rules during the towing of the drilling rig, as well as towing without consideration of the weather conditions ... are believed to be the cause of the (disaster)," Russia’s federal Investigative Committee said on its website, according to Reuters.

Just 14 people were pulled out of the 1 degree Celsius (33.8 Fahrenheit) water alive by the crew of the ship that had been towing the drilling platform, Reuters reported. Four bodies have been recovered, and the rest of the crew of 67 is missing.

“The rescue efforts will continue at night, with the expected arrival of rescue vessels,” Yekaterina Potvorova, a spokeswoman at the regional Emergency Situations Ministry, told Bloomberg Businessweek, adding that the rescue operation was hindered by “high waves and strong wind.”

According to The Associated Press:

As oil and gas fields in Eastern Siberia are becoming depleted, Russian oil and gas companies are starting to shift their focus to offshore projects, unveiling ambitious plans to tap the riches of the Arctic. Earlier this year, Exxon Mobil and Russia’s largest oil producer Rosneft teamed up to jointly explore oil and gas fields in the Kara Sea with Exxon pledging $3.2 billion of investment on only three fields.

“This disaster should highlight the high risks of offshore projects,” Alexei Knizhnikov, an energy policy official in Russia for the World Wildlife Fund, told the RIA Novosti news agency, the AP reported. “It’s very difficult to conduct efficient rescue operations, whether it’s rescuing people or dealing with oil spills, in the weather conditions of the Arctic.”