The Usumacinta Disaster


  • Chris Hanlon Memorial University




The Usumacinta is a mat-supported jack-up based on the prior design of the Bethlehem JU-200-MC. It was delivered in 1982 by Bethlehem Steel in Singapore to Perforadora Central operating out of Mexico. The Usumacinta’s main operational role is to move from site to site to perform drilling support for stationary platforms and does so with a crew of 81 personnel. In October 2007, the Usumacinta was contracted to drill a well for Petroleos Mexicanos (also known as PEMEX)’s Kab-101 platform in the Bay of Campeche approximately 75 kilometres off the coast of the Tabasco region near the port of Dos Bocas. On Sunday, October 21st, 2007 the Usumacinta arrived in position next to the Kab-101 platform to finish the drilling of the Kab-103 oil well. Within three days onsite a cold front moved across the Bay of Campeche creating wind speeds up to 130 km/h and 8 meter waves. This storm caused the closure of eight separate ports in the Gulf for commercial traffic. These conditions were described by Carlos Morales, director of PEMEX’s exploration and production unit as “extreme weather conditions we’ve never registered before.” These operating conditions caused oscillations in the Usumacinta resulting in a collision of the cantilever deck of the Usumacinta and the top of the production valve tree of the Kab-101 platform, causing a leak in oil and gas at approximately 1200 hours on October 23rd, 2007. Around 1420 hours the subsea valves of wells 101 and 121 were closed by PEMEX in order to stop the leakage of oil and gas. Unfortunately the valves were damaged in the collision and some leakage continued after these safety valves were closed. This resulted in an evacuation of the 81 crew members occurring at approximately 1535. On November 13th, a spark from on-going containment work caused a significant fire to ignite on the Usumacinta. This fire was put out on November 14th at approximately 2350 hours. A second fire occurred on November 20th causing immense damage to the Usumacinta platform including the collapse of its derrick and severe damage to the cantilever deck and connecting bridge. This incident will be covered extensively with a focus on possible preventative measures that would have been put in place to avoid similar disasters from occurring in the future.


Associated Press. (2007, October 27). Gulf of Mexico oil rig accident kills 18 workers. Retrieved November 27, 2011, from

Usumacinta Disaster. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2011, from






Coastal and Ocean Engineering (ENGI.8751)