Pemex evacuates sinking flotel

A semisubmersible platform used to house offshore oil workers in the Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico partially sank Tuesday afternoon. The flotel, named the Flotel Jupiter, is owned by Mexico's Cotemar SA, and subcontracted by the state oil company Pemex.

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A mechanical malfunction with a valve located in on of the platform's pontoon is being blamed for the incident. The majority of the crew, 638 employees, were immediately evacuated to the nearby Abkatun-A facility. The remaining 75 stayed on board to attend to the emergency situation.

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According to Pemex, several attempts were made to save the 38 m high platform, with four crane ships and seven supply ships participating in the operation. But after attempts to stabilize Flotel Jupiter failed--and the subsequent evacuation of all remaining personnel was completed--the platform eventually began to list and partially sank at 2:30 in the afternoon.

On board the platform are 2,075 barrels of diesel and 82 barrels of kerosene.

According to Pemex there are no signs of leaks but the platform will be continually monitored. The diesel is in tamks in the pontoons, while the kerosene is in sealed containers.

Pemex is currently analyzing possible solutions to salvage the platform and has begun its investigation into the cause of the accident.

Pemex contracted platforms are inspected annually. Jupiter's last inspection, which it passed, took place June 2010.

April 14, 2011