Brazil - Offshore Oil Platform Accident OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Situation Report
Originally published

Ref: 2001/0073
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Offshore Oil Platform Accident - Brazil
21 March 2001

Incident Details

1. On Thursday, 15 March, an offshore oil platform belonging to the Brazilian oil company, Petrobras, suffered a series of explosions that resulted in a number of casualties and caused severe structural damage. Initially, the platform leaned dangerously as a result of damage to one of the support columns, and then gradually began to sink.

2. The underwater wells that lie 1.3 km below the surface were immediately capped to prevent damage and oil leakage. Since wells are not directly under the platform, there appears to be little concern of possible damage.

3. On 20 March, in spite of vigorous efforts to keep it afloat, the platform sank.

4. There are some 1.5 million litres (~400,000 gallons) of diesel and fuel oil in storage tanks and in the 21 pipelines on, or attached to, the platform. Now that the platform has sunk, the storage tanks are expected to burst from extreme water pressure, and leak their contents. Some seepage from the submerged platform has already been observed, and is being contained by the floating boom that was put in place immediately following the initial explosion.

5. The platform, which is some 125 km off the coast of Brazil near Macae, is in deep water and the tides are flowing away from the shoreline. As a result, it is hoped that any leaked oil would be carried out to sea, away from sensitive shoreline ecosystems.

Location of Oil Rig Disaster near Macae Brazil
©BBC 2000

6. Reports from the Brazilian National Secretariat of Civil Defence indicate that the situation is stable and, so far, all the oil is being contained by the 32,000 metres of floating oil containment boom that has been put in place.

International Assistance

7. No request for international assistance has been received by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit to date.

8. Petrobras had flown in U.S. and Dutch experts and equipment in its initial attempts to keep the leaning platform afloat. These experts remain on site.

9. The Joint Unit remains in contact with competent national authorities in Brazil and will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Unit Officers
Mr. Vladimir Sakharov: Tel: +41 22 917 1142
Ms. Patricia Charlebois: Tel: + 41 22 917 1815

Press contact: Mr. Donato Kiniger-Passigli, direct Tel. +41-22-917 26 53

Internet Website at

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit