Nerve-racking mission: Workers evacuated offshore India as Cyclone Biparjoy advances

The Indian Coast Guard has evacuated 50 workers from a drilling rig off the coast of Gujarat as very severe cyclonic storm Biparjoy approaches the country.

The IGC “in a nerve racking mission” evacuated 50 personnel from Oslo-listed Shelf Drilling’s jack-up Key Singapore, which was deployed offshore Okha, Gujarat. The workers — in parties of 26 and 24 — were safely removed from the potential path of the storm in a mission that involved the vessel Ship Shoor and an Advanced Light Helicopter Mark III helicopter.

The 1982-built jack-up Key Singapore was working for Cairn India on a two-well contract. Shelf Drilling in March secured a one-well extension with Cairn off India’s east coast. This new well was expected to commence in April 2023 and take four months excluding the mobilisation.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Tuesday issued an orange alert for Saurashtra and Kutch coasts in Gujarat in view of the cyclonic storm. Cyclone Biparjoy is set to cross Jakhau Port in Gujarat by the evening of 15 June.

The “very severe cyclonic storm” developing over the northeast Arabian Sea is expected to make landfall between Mandvi in India’s western state of Gujarat and Karachi in southern Pakistan by Thursday evening, reported Reuters.

The cyclone is expected to have maximum sustained wind speeds of between 125-135 kilometres per hour (78-84 miles per hour) gusting up to 150 kilometres per hour.

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The IMD called for a “total suspension” of fishing activity along the coast of the Indian state of Gujarat and asked those at sea to return to land. The cyclone is expected to cause major damage to homes, roads and crops in the area, the department said.

India’s state-owned Oil & Natural Gas Corporation earlier this week moved 36 of its offshore rigs to more sheltered locations ahead of the annual monsoon season.

Key Singapore’s next charter is a three-year gig with ONGC offshore India, which is scheduled to start in December 2023.