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CNOOC top bosses pinned over lack of safety measures, salary disparity among workers

Kampala, (UG): The top management of Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC Uganda Limited), a subsidiary of CNOOC International have come under fire from the Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU), over lack of safety measures and allegations of operating with under wage disparity between Ugandan and Chinese employees.

The allegations came to light following a fatal accident in the Kingfisher Project Area, operated by CNOOC Uganda that led to the death of a subcontractor a few days ago, which has since drawn the Authority’s attention to the company’s employee health, and safety measures and welfare record.

Sources privy to the matter reveal that on October 6, 2023, a fatal accident occurred in the Kingfisher Project Area, resulting in the loss of one subcontractor personnel’s life, which prompted the Authority to intervene in the matter by conveying condolences to the family of the deceased, before expressing dismay over the incident.

This publication has further learnt that the truck in question belonged to Excel Company, which was subcontracted by CNOOC Uganda Limited for site clearance, and construction of well pads among others.

DailyExpress has established that following the allegations, the Petroleum Authority, which is the oil and gas sector’s regulator, has since expressed concern about CNOOC’s operations, citing unheeded safety warnings, which eventually resulted in the tragic incident.

The Authority also highlighted that several previous safety incidents had been brought to the attention of CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL) but all of which had been ignored by the proprietors of the company, hence deeming the trend unacceptable and detrimental to personnel safety and the sector’s reputation.

The company’s negligence and refusal to implement safety measures as directed has since seen the Petroleum Authority suspend operations on all Kingfisher’s field, until the necessary for field safety and security measures are met.

In a letter addressed to the CNOOC Uganda President, the PAU Executive Director, Mr Earnest Rubondo directed CNOOC to halt operations from 7th October 2023 until further notice.

“The Petroleum Authority of Uganda has learnt of a fatal incident within the Kingfisher project area that occurred today 6th October 2023. This regrettable incident follows several safety incidents that this authority has previously brought to the attention of CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL). This trend is unacceptable as it compromises the safety of the personnel and damages the safety of the sector” Mr Rubondo’s letter said in part.

Quoting section 177 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development, and Production) Act 2013, Rubondo directed CNOOC Uganda Limited to halt operation with the exception of activities required to maintain safety and security.

And that is not the only tragic incident to warrant PAU’s intervention in CNOOC activities as the offshore company has in the history been engulfed in health and safety issues, as well as employee welfare concerns.

The Petroleum body has previously in past directed the company to address complaints by its Ugandan workers regarding mistreatment and disparities in safety standards between Ugandan and Chinese expatriate workers in dangerous working environments.

One significant grievance among workers was the huge wage gap, whereby Ugandan workers receive only 16% of the salary paid to their Chinese counterparts.

Records indicate that the lowest-paid Chinese worker earns a UGX43 million gross salary, while the highest-paid Ugandan worker earns a UGX7 million gross, a difference that most Ugandan employees consider so unfair.

Ernest T. Rubondo, in September 2014 directed CNOOC to address these employee-related issues but all his directions have since landed on the deaf ears of the company’s bosses.

About Kingfisher Project

The Kingfisher field is being developed by a partnership of oil and gas companies: TotalEnergies E&P, (56.67%), China National Offshore Oil (CNOOC), (28.33%), and Uganda National Oil Company (15%). CNOOC Uganda, a subsidiary of CNOOC, serves as the operator of the field.

It should be recalled that the appointment of Liu Xaingdong as President of CNOOC Uganda in July 2023 marked a change in leadership for the company when he replaced Mr. Chen Zhuobiao, who had held the position since September 2020.

Liu previously served as the Head of the Development and Production department at CUL from 2011 to 2015 before assuming the role of Vice President at CNOOC International until May 2023.

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