Tugs move the huge jack-up rig, the Noble Tom Prosser into position at the Cowes anchorage today.

THE massive jack-up rig, the Noble Tom Prosser, which was at the centre of a COVID-19 alert last month, floated into Westernport this morning, Sunday, April 18.

But the concerns which prompted unions to lodge a formal complaint with the national regulator, over the alleged absence of appropriate coronavirus protocols, seem to have been resolved ahead of the vessel’s arrival here.

Last month, online industry news site, Energy News Bulletin, reported that a formal complaint had been lodged by unions with the national regulator alleging Noble Corp was not conducting regular coronavirus screening and that it had put employee safety at risk by flying in foreign workers without self-isolation protocols or testing in place.

The Energy News said it had obtained a copy of the complaint lodged by the Australian Workers Union and Maritime Union of Australia to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).

The complaint stated that 14 foreign nationals were flown to the Noble Tom Prosser last month and were not subject to self-isolation or health checks before joining the rest of the crew.

Sources did not say where the foreign workers travelling from.

The Energy News also said it did not know if workers disembarking would be put into 14 days’ quarantine.

The workers also allege that Noble Corp did not implement ‘social distancing’ or put in place any procedures to ensure large groups of workers did not congregate to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

According to sources speaking to Energy News 40 workers were “crammed” into daily meetings.

Noble Corp’s rig was conducting a drilling campaign in the Bass Strait for ExxonMobil’s West Barracouta gas project off East Gippsland before arriving in Westernport, reportedly on route to Portland.

The unions were urging the regulator to launch a full-scale investigation into Noble Corp’s hygiene protocols, but these concerns have reportedly been allayed.

A spokesman for the MUA told the Sentinel-Times today, that to his knowledge the matter had been resolved and he wasn’t aware of any on-going issues.

As well as the fly-in workers issue and general hygiene claims, the workers were seeking to put more stringent cleaning and disinfection practices in place.

“There are insufficient numbers of utilities on the Noble Tom Prosser to ensure there is a continuous cleaning of common areas with alcohol swabs etc to minimise the risk of coronavirus exposure,” the complaint allegedly read.

The rig reportedly has a high turnover of fly-in-fly-out workers made up of a majority of foreign workers and casual employees.

Energy News received no reply from Noble Corp but the matter has apparently been resolved to the satisfaction of unions and workers.

It is not known how long the 85-metre-long vessel, with its 152-metre-high legs in the air, will be in Westernport or what was the purpose of the visit.

It was attended by two tugs as it made its way into the bay at about 7am on Sunday.

The Noble Tom Prosser has been involved in three contracts in Australia in the past year. One contract with Santos from March/April to October 2019, another with CarbonNet/AGR from November to December and Esso’s contract from January to April 2020.

Built in Singapore, the jack-up rig flies a Liberian flag and works all around the world.