India’s state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and barge charterer Afcons are to pay compensation to the families of the victims and to the survivors of last week’s vessel sinking offshore India that has claimed the lives of at least 70 workers.

Sixteen people are still missing as the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and ONGC continue their search operations for those still unaccounted for after Cyclone Tauktae slammed into the Mumbai High asset offshore India’s west coast.

Afcons will give between 3.5 million rupees ($48,065) and 7.5 million rupees to families of those deceased and the offshore contractor said it would also establish a trust to support the education of their children.

“The families of the deceased would receive a total compensation equivalent to balance period of service up to 10 years salaries through a combination of ex gratia pay-outs and insurance compensation,” said a statement from Afcons Infrastructure.

ONGC said it would also pay immediate compensation of 200,000 rupees to the families of the deceased workers and those missing and 100,000 rupees compensation to survivors.

However, unconfirmed local media reports claimed families of those impacted are considering legal action as they believe compensation of up to 30 million rupees ($412,000) could be awarded.

"We are saddened by the events and express our deep sorrow at the loss of life and pay our tributes to the BNVs (brave nature’s victims)," said ONGC.

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India’s Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has launched a high-level inquiry into last week’s tragic incident, while a police complaint has been lodged against the captain of the ill-fated barge Papaa 305.

Negligence probe sought

“I want maximum punishment under the law. How much money will they give me? We are not poor. I lost my father. It is an irreparable damage. I want the police to probe ONGC’s negligence as well. Is it not their responsibility to take care of people they hire?” Rudra Kumar, son of deceased barge surveyor Sachindra Prasad Singh, was quoted as saying by the New Indian Express.

Four vessels, including three barges chartered by Afcons, and one of ONGC’s drillships bore the brunt of the cyclone when it hit on 17 May. Of the 714 personnel on board these units, 628 have been safely rescued.

The offshore workers dead and those still missing were onboard either the Afcons-chartered accommodation barge P 305 or Glory Shipping Management’s tugboat Varapradha, which had been towing another Afcons-chartered barge, the GAL Constructor.

Both the P 305 and Varapradha capsized and sank as Cyclone Tauktae barrelled through the Mumbai High asset fields in the Arabian Sea.

Forty-two of the recovered bodies have been identified and handed over to their families.

“ONGC is extending logistical help to families of affected crew members of barge P 305. The company is providing all necessary logistical help and support for the dependent family members to travel to Mumbai and back.

“ONGC is also making arrangements for families to take back the mortal remains of the deceased persons to their hometowns," the state oil giant said.

The P 305 was hit by winds of up to 180 kilometres an hour and waves between six and eight metres high, which saw the vessel lose all its anchors. The barge drifted from location and then hit one of ONGC's unmanned platforms, resulting in water ingress, before the P 305 capsized and ultimately sank last Tuesday.

"During this fight against ferocity of nature, employees on board displayed exemplary courage and continued their efforts to steer barges and [the] rig to safety with beaten down functionality," added ONGC.

The known survivors from the stricken P 305 included engineers, riggers, welders and firemen employed by contractors Afcons, Fugro, Sinai Maritime, IRS, Papaa Shipping and Matthews; and a medic from Iindoworld, noted ONGC.

All of the 101 personnel on board the operator's drillship Sagar Bhushan and the 339 workers from Afcons’ chartered barges Support Station-3 and GAL Constructor were safely rescued after Cyclone Tauktae hit.

Updated with quotes from ONGC.

India bracing now for Cyclone Yaas

India this week is bracing itself for another cyclone, Cyclone Yaas, that is set to hit the country’s east coast.

Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan “has made full assessment of various oil and gas installations, ships, docks etc in the area and, learning from recent experience, has taken all precautionary steps to ensure minimal damage”, the ministry said.