MOBIL OIL CANADA'S Ocean Ranger rig working offshore Newfoundland sank early this morning and 84 men are missing and feared lost.
According to a spokesman in Mobil's Newfoundland office, the Ocean Ranger's crew was ordered to abandon the rig at 1:00 a.m. (Newfoundland time) this morning, after the rig had been buffeted by violent, gale force winds and waves overnight. At press time this morning there were no survivors reported.
The spokesman says rescue planes and ships searching the Ocean Ranger site approximately 175 nautical miles east of St. John's saw bodies floating in the water, but weather conditions hampered search and rescue operations. Two lifeboats were also spotted in the water one capsized, and the other was stern down. A partially inflated life raft was also spotted in the area.
The Ocean Ranger had been drilling the J 34 well in the Hibernia field, but Mobil says there was no possibility of a well blow out.
A Mobil spokesman says that two other rigs the Sedco 706 and the Zapata Ugland, were drilling in the vicinity of the Ocean Ranger but were safe. The storm blew into the area late Sunday, and waves as high as 13 metres were reported with winds reaching 125 km an hour.
According to the spokesman, two search and rescue vessels searching the Ocean Ranger site since 4:00 a.m. are returning to St. John's. A Voyager air search helicopter is standing by in St. John's to assist in rescue efforts. Two other work boats have left St. John's to help and are expected to arrive around 6 p.m.
Another Mobil spokesman says that the Ocean Ranger crew secured the well before abandoning the rig.
The Ocean Ranger rig is owned by OCEAN DRILLING AND EXPLORATION CO of New Orleans, Louisiana. The rig was built by MITSUBISHI HEAVY INDUSTRIES LTD in Hiroshima, Japan and launched in 1976. The semisubmersible, self-propelled rig had a rectangular platform measuring 122 by 80 by 41 metres.