Russian news agencies reporting this morning (Sunday), that an oil drilling rig with 67 crew on board capsized and sank off the Russian Far East island of Sakhalin after running into a storm while being towed, with 51 of the crew so far unaccounted for. Fourteen crew members were rescued alive from the ‘Kolskaya’ jack-up rig, operated by Russian exploration company Arktikmorneftegazrazvedka, two bodies were recovered and the rest of the crew were missing. According to reports from the scene of the rescue operation, “the Kolskaya platform has sunk completely,” the local head of the Emergencies Ministry, Taimuraz Kasayev, told a news briefing in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
Agencies quoted officials as saying the rig capsized at about 0200 GMT on Sunday around 200 km (125 miles) off the coast of Sakhalin as it was being towed from the eastern peninsula of Kamchatka. It appears that the vessel had not been doing drilling work, so no oil spill was likely. The rig’s destination was not immediately clear.
While less serious then BP’s Macondo disaster, when a blowout caused oil to spew for months into the Gulf of Mexico, the fatal accident will deal a blow to Russia’s efforts to step up offshore oil and gas exploration. Russia has two major offshore projects that are already producing oil off Sakhalin – Sakhalin-1, operated by Exxonmobil and Sakhalin-2, in which state-controlled gas export monopoly Gazprom has a controlling stake. State-controlled Rosneft this year reached a major deal with Exxon to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic Kara Sea. It just brings home how dangerous oil exploration can be as we here moan & whine about falling share-prices we should spare a thought for the human cost in an industry that can be unforgiving.