Afcons reassures staff after barge tragedy

Vol 24, PW 15 (17 Jun 21) News in Brief

Afcons has hit back at accusations it is responsible for the offshore Mumbai disaster on May 17 (2021) that claimed 86 lives during cyclone Tauktae at the LEWPP project, which it is executing for ONGC.

During a video conference on June 9 (2021) with up to 150 employees, Afcons director Ashwini Kumar reportedly blamed the captain of barge P305, on which 75 died when it sank. Kumar is learnt to have alleged that Afcons asked the captain to return from the LEWPP area, but he chose to stay back, confident he could manage the cyclone.

Kumar reportedly said Afcons had records to prove this and stressed the May 17 disaster was "an accident" and that Afcons had done nothing to cause it or deliberately risked lives. He assured staff the crisis would pass and, irrespective of blame, that Afcons was "taking care of victims' families."

Kumar reportedly also criticised the media for writing "all sorts of stories" about the incident and said only Afcons parent company Shapoorji Pallonji would speak to the media. Gal Constructor barge captain Agnelo Rebello reportedly told newspapers Afcons asked him to stay in the "operational (project) area" as the captain of P305 had agreed.

Rebello said he refused and insisted on a tugboat to tow his barge to safety. Shapoorji bosses, meanwhile, are rumoured to be lobbying the oil ministry to stop ONGC from officially 'blacklisting' the company, a move that would ban it from other PSU tenders.

In return, the group is offering to ignore ONGC tenders for four or five years and merge Afcons with parent company Shapoorji Pallonji.