- Mexican navy
An fire aboard one of Mexican state oil company Pemex’s oil tankers in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday forced the crew to evacuate, in what is the latest accident to plague the struggling state-run firm.
The 31 people aboard were able to make it off the ship and get back to shore safely and without injury, Pemex said in a statement, adding that there was no risk to the local population.
The cause of the fire remains unknown.
Images tweeted by Pemex showed the vessel giving off plumes of smoke as another boat hosed the tanker. The ship was carrying about 168,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel, well below its capacity of 270,000 barrels
According to Mexican news site Sin Embargo, the load was made up of 80,000 barrels of diesel fuel, 71,000 barrels of unleaded gasoline, and 16,000 barrels of desulfurized gasoline.
Other Mexican navy ships moved into the area to put barriers in place in case of a leak from the tanker, Sin Embargo reported. Four tugboats from Veracruz’s port authority also arrived on the scene to with special foams to use to fight the fire.
- Mexican navy
The fire started just before noon, according to Pemex, and while there were no initial reports of spills from the tanker, a local official said in an interview on Saturday evening that some of the fuel shipment had spilled from the tanker but didn’t pose a risk to the environment.
“No other risk [to the environment] exists; the fuel is spilling in the sea and doesn’t contaminate because they are light fuels,” Juan Ignacio Fernández Carvajal, director of the Veracruz Port Authority, said in an interview with Xeu Noticias. “It’s not crude, it’s not going to the bottom of the sea, it stays on the surface …”
“The fire hasn’t been controlled, we are working to control it,” Fernández Carvajal said, admitting that the ship could still sink, “but [that] is what we’re trying to avoid; we are attacking this risk,” he added.
- Thomson Reuters
The fire follows a series of other mishaps at Pemex, which is coping with major losses, increased competition at home, sharp budget cuts, and lower revenue due to the oil-price rout, according to Reuters.
On land, the state oil company has had to deal with rampant oil theft from pipelines throughout the country by both criminal groups and regular people.
While no deaths have been reported, Pemex has experienced fatal incidents in the recent past, Reuters noted.
In April, more than 30 people died and dozens were injured in an explosion at a petrochemical plant in southeast Veracruz state, a joint venture between Pemex and another firm.
In 2013, at least 37 people were killed by a blast at Pemex’s Mexico City headquarters, and 26 people died in a fire at a Pemex natural-gas facility in northern Mexico in 2012.
A 2015 fire at a Pemex platform in the Bay of Campeche affected oil output and cost the company up to $780 million.
(Reporting for Reuters by Natalie Schachar and Noe Torres; Editing by Dave Graham and Matthew Lewis)