Remembering BHN_SURAKSHA Oilfield fire- A citizen’s rescue report at humanrescueintermedia

Remembering Biggest Oilfield disaster of India

Our tributes on 6th Anniversary of disaster of BHN-SURAKSHA (week 27th July-2nd Aug 2005) to all 11 who lost lives, another 11 who went missing and to loss of the BHN platform, a Helicopter and MSV Samudra Suraskha in the worst ever tragedy of Mumbai High Oilfield in India. Inspite of unfavorable sea conditions 361 persons were saved, our team was awarded Maritime Bravery Award 2005 (with individual names mentioned therein) by DG Shipping, GOI — Er. Sharad Gupta (who was in the rescue team control centre onboard ONGC ship DSV Samudra Prabha as DP Electronics Officer) remembers how the fire was fought against all adverse conditions and how 361 lives were saved only because of team efforts of ONGC base and onboard representatives, SCI, Indian Navy, Supply boats and a co-ordination ir-respective of our Nationality, Caste, Creed, Colour, Religion etc. We all had just one common aim towards the Nation, Duty and Humanity. He narrates full story —

On 27th July 2005, at approx 4 pm, when we were onboard ONGC ship DSV Samudra Prabha (Managed by Shipping Corporation of India) in Mumbai High Oilfield, we received an SOS Message about a massive explosion at BHN platform. Capt. Gopalkrishnan, then Master of DSV Samudra Prabha asked us to man our emergency duties and we proceeded full ahead for the rescue operations. Chief Engineer Mr. Satyaseelan asked me to ensure that all Electronics, Communications, Controls, Automation and Power systems are operational. Being in-charge of these systems, I re-checked all systems fully operational.

We came to know that a cook onboard MSV Samudra Suraksha had accidentally chopped his fingers. He was to be evacuated to Mumbai by Helicopter. As the weather was rough for helicopter to land on Suraksha’s helideck, the patient was to be transferred by BHN’s crane on platform. As BHN’s main crane was not available, hence the other side crane was used for medical emergency. During transfer, because of an unexpected heavy swell, Suraksha collided with BHN causing rupture of gas riser. There was an instant massive explosion causing giant Steel structure of BHN to melt. The aviation fuel tank located right on top at BHN also exploded, causing the fuel to fall on Suraksha causing a fire there also. People from BHN, Suraksha, Rig Noble Charlie Easter etc abandoned the installations with Lifeboats, Life rafts, Life jackets and some of them even without them jumping directly into sea.

On reaching BHN, DSV Samudra Prabha started rescue operations and co-coordinated as per ONGC base office instructions. Rescued persons were transferred to supply boats for safe passage to Mumbai. Prabha was assigned the toughest job of handling Suraksha’s fire where fire had caused black-out and hence she was dangerously drifting around and also had 6 divers trapped inside saturation chamber. We then fought the Suraksha fire with Prabha’s fire monitors (4X1800 M3/hour). After two days of round the clock operations; we were able to put-off Suraksha’s fire and save 6 trapped divers by sending our diving team onboard Suraksha.

On 26th July 2005, there were torrential rains in Mumbai, flooding Juhu helibase, Grounding of many helicopters, Flooding in ONGC colony at Panvel, around ONGC Bandra office etc. made the rescue operations tougher. At Mumbai High, the sea was extremely rough but there were absolutely no rains to help us putting off the fire.

Prabha was released after two days after handing over Suraksha to tugs for taking to Mumbai. However, two days later, Prabha was called to Mumbai coast because Suraksha tug ropes had parted and she had began to sink as developed holes because of fire. Suraksha was not allowed to enter harbour because of smoldering still ongoing as this would have caused danger to other vessels.  We reached there but here it was heavy rains in Mumbai coast and weather did not permit us to pump out water. Thus on 2nd August 2005 in wee hours,  ONGC’s prestigious flagship MSV — the mighty fire-fighting ship with 6.6 KV High voltage generation of 11400 KW, a rescue ship equipped with state-of-the art Dynamic Positioning system — sank off Mumbai Coast.

Samudra Suraksha was pride of ONGC and Nation. For me she was my first “civilian love” also. Mazagon Docks Had earmarked me for this prestigious project in 1982 and I was transferred from warships to offshore industry. When I saw her at Norway for the first time in 1982 during my familiarization training, I fell in love with her. She also gave me honour of being first Indian DP Electronics Officer in 1984. It was with her I had my first fire-fighting experience with International agencies in 1984, when we fought fire (of SCI tanker with 40,000 tonnes of oil onboard–floating bomb). I will cherish her memory forever.

Er. Sharad Gupta 9911796085, B.E.(Elect & Telecom), M.I.E., M.I.E.T.E.
Founder – Sri Chandra-Kunwar Smriti Bhartiya Samiti Sri
Maritime Bravery Award winner from DG shipping, GOI for 2005 BHN-Oilfield fire.

Youth Mentor Awardee 2009 from Russian Centre of Science and Culture. 

The Human Rescue Team
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