The odds of offshore construction crews boycotting Santos’ Barossa construction project are shortening in light of the Australian operator’s refusal to guarantee wages for workers due to mobilise later this week, according to the Offshore Alliance union.

“Santos needs to guarantee wages for workers scheduled to mobilise, or they will find themselves without a workforce,” said the OA, which comprises the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Maritime Union of Australia.

The nation’s Federal Court last week slapped an eleventh-hour injunction on installation of the Barossa gas export pipeline (GEP) that Swiss offshore contractor Allseas had been due to start imminently.

Despite offshore regulator NOPSEMA earlier approving Santos’ environmental plan for the GEP installation, the court overruled that green light, casting doubt over the Barossa project’s timeline and budget.

The court’s move followed a legal challenge from an Indigenous man, Simon Munkara, who alleged that installing the GEP would impact submerged Tiwi cultural heritage, thereby creating a new environmental risk.

Meanwhile, Allseas’ pipelay vessel Audacia and its multipurpose construction vessel Fortitude remain at anchor offshore Darwin, in Australia's Northern Territory, awaiting the court’s next decision, confirmed marine traffic tracking service VesselsValue.

The OA confirmed that it had written to Santos, calling on the Barossa operator to commit to ensuring payment of wages for all construction workers on the Audacia and Fortitude.

The union said it has also asked Santos to commit to paying in full the deck officers on both of the Allseas' vessels, and also on the three Australian Offshore Solutions-operated platform supply vessels that are supporting the Barossa GEP installation.

Santos told Upstream it had no comment on the workers’ plight, simply referring back to the company’s statement of 2 November when it acknowledged the Federal Court of Australia that day granted an interim injunction to prevent it from commencing to lay the BGP until 13 November at the earliest.

The OA is looking to schedule a conference call this week for affected unionised offshore workers to plot their next move.

Union plea

Offshore Alliance spokesperson and AWU Western Australia branch secretary Brad Gandy, commented: "The Offshore Alliance is calling on Santos to guarantee income for the workers who have been engaged for this work, despite the injunction and any further delays the project may experience.

"Many of the workers engaged by Santos left other jobs to take up these roles on the Barossa project.”

Gandy claimed that Santos had failed to consult cooperatively with the Offshore Alliance as representative of the majority of workers onboard the Audacia.

"We call on Santos to change tack, start consulting with the union and guarantee workers that their incomes will not be affected," he added.

Upstream approached Allseas, the engineering, procurement, construction and installation contractor for the Barossa GEP, for comment on the project in light of the court injunction and on whether a protracted delay to its workscope could have repercussions for its vessels’ next jobs.

"The only comment we have is that this development is beyond our control, so we have no choice but to await the situation," an Allseas spokesperson told Upstream.

Australian Offshore Solutions in June advised that it had started planning and preparations with its joint venture partners Kuiper and client Allseas for the Barossa pipelaying project, for which it is supporting Allseas with marine manning and catering.

The offshore contractor describes the Audacia as its “versatile pipelay vessel”, which is optimised for the installation of small to large-diameter pipeline projects of any length in all water depths, and for associated work such as the installation of risers and subsea protection frames.

Allseas in 2018 acquired the MPCV Fortitude, which is optimised for the installation of flexibles, umbilicals, manifolds, jumpers and other subsea production system components.

Updated to include comment from Allseas.

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