An outbreak of coronavirus has struck on a Valaris semi-submersible rig about to depart Malaysia for a drilling contract offshore Australia due to start next month.

“Last week, a number of rig personnel on board Valaris DPS-1 tested positive for Covid-19. The rig is currently located in Johor, Malaysia, undergoing contract preparations,” Valaris told Upstream.

“The confirmed cases have been isolated and are being monitored. All health and safety precautions are being implemented, including performing a deep cleaning of the rig.”

The Offshore Alliance — a coalition between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia — had taken up the cause of Australian workers already on the rig and those workers waiting in hotel rooms in Malaysia while unable to board because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The rig crew has “been confined to their 6 x 4 cabins (without separate ventilation) with a 10-minute exercise regime on the helideck each day — little bit like being locked up in Long Bay, except the food is worse”, the Offshore Alliance said on its Facebook page.

“Workers onshore waiting to mobilise are still confined to their hotel rooms despite the fact they are four days over their completed quarantine period.

“They are now being told that will have to extend their mandatory detention for another eight days. It’ll be a 11 February release date at best.”

Houston-headquartered rig owner Valaris said that the “highest priority continues to be the health and safety of our employees and those of our partners, and we always follow strict protocols to protect the well-being of everyone involved and the communities where we live and operate”.

The drilling contractor added that it is monitoring the situation closely and keeping the local authorities informed of any developments.

The Friede & Goldman design rig DPS-1 had been warm stacked in Malaysia ahead of its next charter — Australia’s Woodside has contracted the unit for a firm 10-month domestic drilling campaign that is scheduled to start in March.

A Woodside spokesperson told Upstream in response to an enquiry regarding a potential delay to its drilling programme that “the DPS-1 is expected to arrive in line with its contractual start date window”.

The operator has lined up the semisub for a plug and abandonment campaign on its Enfield field offshore Western Australia.

Upstream reported on 12 July that the P&A campaign would involve production wells, water injectors and up to two gas injection wells on Block WA-28-L.

Valaris’ fleet report notes that Woodside also has an option to retain the DPS-1 for a follow-on hire from January 2023 to March 2024 but this contract “is subject to final investment decision”.

The rig was built at Sembcorp Marine’s Jurong Shipyard in Singapore and was completed in 2012. It is designed to operate in ultra-deepwater and can drill to a depth of 35,000 feet.

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