OPINION: The tragedy that led to 86 workers losing their lives in a cyclone offshore India last month must lead to significant safety improvements for the country's oil and gas sector.

Three senior officials with Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have been suspended while a ministerial-level investigation continues into the disaster that saw Cyclone Tauktae slam into the Indian state-owned operator's Mumbai High assets.

Many of the vessels supporting production and exploration operations moved away from the predicted path of the typhoon after studying weather forecasts.

However, three barges chartered by India’s Afcons and Glory Shipping Management’s tugboat Varapradha, which was towing one of the barges, failed to move out of harm’s way.

The Papaa 305 barge and the Varapradha capsized and sank, with 86 lives lost.

The blame game has been spiraling since then, with various parties laying responsibility at the feet of ONGC, Afcons, the master of the P 305, and even Durmast, from which Afcons had chartered the barges.

But any naming and shaming should not overshadow the fact that so many people have died while working in India’s oil and gas industry.

Catastrophic loss of life

It must be hoped that investigations will unravel the chain of events that led to such a catastrophic loss of life and will potentially result in procedural — or even legislative — changes to ensure such a tragedy never happens again.

Compensation must be paid to those impacted by the incident and the families of those who perished, and charges brought against anyone found to have broken the law.

The Piper Alpha disaster in UK waters almost 33 years ago killed 167, while 11 died in BP’s 2010 Macondo well blowout in the US Gulf of Mexico.

These incidents in developed nations continue to be remembered — and rightly so.

Similarly, lessons must be learned from last month's tragedy to ensure a safer future for India's upstream sector. And the 86 lives lost must never be forgotten.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)