Lately, we've reported on the problems that some offshore companies have had with COVID-19 outbreaks on their platforms. A virus outbreak on an offshore platform is particularly dangerous thanks to how close workers are to each other, how many surfaces they share, and how far away from medical assistance they are.
Around the world, outbreaks of COVID-19 have been difficult for offshore workers. In the North Sea, hundreds of workers have been evacuated because of virus outbreaks on multiple platforms. In the United States, it has been difficult to understand how bad the COVID-19 problem is for offshore workers. The US Coast Guard hasn't reported COVID-19 of Gulf platforms since early April. To complicate things, the federal government has given offshore companies the authority to establish their own protocols during the outbreak, free from regulations and the accountability that comes with them.
While we don't know the exact numbers of how many workers in the Gulf have tested positive for COVID-19, we can look at outbreaks in other oil-rich areas of the world to help us understand what American offshore workers might be facing on their own.
Petrobras Is Facing a Serious COVID-19 Outbreak on Platforms
In Brazil, Petrobras is responsible for tapping some of the most significant offshore oil reserves found in the last century. It's currently fighting a pandemic on multiple platforms off the coast of Ceara. Here, 42 out of 45 workers on two platforms have tested positive for coronavirus. They were working on the Xareu exploration project and have been transferred to a hotel so they can stay in isolation.
Petrobras is controlled by the state and is based in Rio de Janeiro. It has the largest fleet of deep-water production rigs in the world. Some experts are comparing the close quarters crews experience on deep-water vessels as being like the conditions that allowed the virus to thrive on cruise ships.
Offshore Workers Deserve Testing & Safety
To combat the issue and keep production moving, Petrobras has started to use fast testing before allowing workers to disembark for offshore rigs. It claims to have accomplished more than 8,000 tests. Now, in the United States, two organizations that represent oil and gas workers are pushing for similar testing. The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) and the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association (LMOGA) have requested that federal and state officials from Louisiana allocate COVID-19 tests for workers.
"With approximately 25,000 workers offshore, there is an increased vulnerability to the spread of COVID-19 due to confined working environments inherent to the facilities and infrastructure that are part of offshore oil and gas production," the associations said in a statement.
So far, no official forms of testing have been implemented for American offshore workers.