Mystery over missing engineer on ONGC offshore installation triggers probe

An electrical engineer working on an Oil & Natural Gas Corporation’s offshore installation in the Mumbai High region has gone missing, triggering a probe by the local police and raising safety concerns on Indian offshore facilities.

The 26-year offshore worker from Kerala, identified as Enos Varghese, was working on an offshore installation when he allegedly fell into the water and disappeared.

Mumbai’s Yellow Gate police station has initiated an investigation into the incident and is expected to soon reach the Mumbai High offshore facility, according to multiple media reports in India.

Nitin Mansing Bobade, assistant commissioner of police at the Yellow Gate station said the worker “suddenly fell into the water while working”.

“The people who were present even threw a safety wheel towards him, but he could not catch hold of it and allegedly drowned,” he told the local media.

However, Varghese’s family is unconvinced by the police’s initial enquiry that points towards suicide, claiming that he was murdered on the offshore installation.

Article continues below the advert

The offshore installation is operated by ONGC, but the exact facility is yet to be confirmed by Upstream.

Foul play?

The deceased’s father Reji Varghese alleged foul play, claiming that “ONGC was trying to portray the incident as a suicide attempt”.

“I firmly believe that my son was murdered,” he told The Indian Express, a leading Indian newspaper on Tuesday.

The older Varghese said that his son “sounded happy” last Friday but later sent “Skype messages to his friends saying that his life was in danger and that if he went missing, these messages would let the world know foul play was involved”, he was quoted by local media.

An ONGC spokesperson was quoted by the media as saying that the company “immediately mobilised search and rescue operations using vessels and choppers”.

“Rescue operations were on under the command of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre along with ONGC, Indian Navy and Coast Guard,” the ONGC spokesperson said.

The Indian giant added that the company was “deeply aggrieved by the incident and has instituted an internal inquiry”.

“ONGC is closely monitoring the situation and is in constant touch with the family of Enos Varghese,” the spokesperson added.

ONGC has yet to respond to a separate Upstream query involving the incident on the Mumbai high facility.

Employed with a Gujarat-based company, Varghese was set to return to Vadodara after completing his assignment with ONGC.

The company operates multiple offshore platforms and rigs in the Mumbai High region, one its most prominent offshore assets in the west coast region.

Safety concerns

The recent incident involving the missing offshore worker has also raised safety concerns on ONGC’s offshore installations.

In 2021, three senior officials at ONGC were suspended amid the investigation into the sinking of an offshore vessel at its Mumbai High field offshore, which cost the lives of 86 personnel.

Afcons’ barge Papaa 305, which had 261 workers onboard when a cyclone hit, capsized and sank with the loss of 75 lives.

Another 11 crew members from the tugboat Varapradha also perished in the Mumbai High region in 2021, when it too sank after the cyclone barrelled through ONGC’s Mumbai High fields.

The Mumbai High field also witnessed a massive fire on an ONGC offshore platform in 2005, killing at least 22 people, despite rescue measures taken by the Indian Coast Guard.