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21/11/2012: Filipino Workers Played Crucial Role in Restoring Gulf of Mexico Oil Production in Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

21 November 2012
As of 1800H EST

WASHINGTON D.C.—The 16 November accident in an offshore oil platform that left one Filipino worker dead, four others seriously injured and one other missing has placed the spotlight on workers from the Philippines, who, unknown to many, played a crucial role in restoring oil production in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina seven years ago.

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy said the nine Filipinos who figured in the explosion and fire that hit the oil platform they were working on off the coast of Louisiana on Friday belong to a pool of highly-skilled workers with an average 10 years of experience working in various oil and gas sector projects overseas.

“Filipinos are not new to the oil and gas sector as they have been working in oil fields, refineries and offshore platforms in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Australia as early as the 1970s,” said Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.

Citing statistics provided by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Ambassador Cuisia said as many as 40,000 Filipinos are working in the offshore oil and gas industry in various parts of the world as of November.

Almost 2,000 of them are working in the United States, including Louisiana, which accounts for 23 percent of total US crude oil production.

“Although Filipinos first set foot in Louisiana as early as the 1700s, it was only in 2005 that workers from the Philippines began making their presence felt in the offshore oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico,” the envoy added.

It was Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. (GIS), a highly diversified oilfield service company based in Galliano, Louisiana, that decided to bring in Filipinos to the Gulf of Mexico based on its experience working with them in offshore oil platforms in Nigeria in 2004.

“Our team brought back great comments to our leadership regarding their safety-conscious attitude, work ethic, knowledge of their respective craft, ability to communicate well in English and their overall attitude toward the work,” said Mark Pregeant II, GIS Operations Manager.

When many of Louisiana’s oil platforms were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Pregeant said GIS immediately knew where to go to address the huge shortage of personnel needed to help in the reconstruction. In November 2005, an initial crew of 24 men arrived from the Philippines and by early 2006, there were more than 350 Filipinos working in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Filipino nationals contributed over 500,000 man-hours throughout that six-month period to help restore oil production in the Gulf of Mexico,” Pregeant said. “Without their help, I believe there would have been significant delays.”

When he visited New Orleans this week to personally look into the November 16 tragedy, Ambassador Cuisia was told that workers from the Philippines are very much in demand among the big oil companies because of their skills and experience.

“Many of these welders, fitters, and riggers have many years of experience and the companies they are employed in have expressed their satisfaction and admiration for their work ethics. This is why the Filipino workers are highly valued and very well compensated,” he said.

This was echoed by GIS’s Pregeant who said: “The same great qualities we found in Nigeria were displayed here in the US.  That is why we are continuing the relationship today, and hope to continue it throughout the very distant future,” Preagent said.

“Our experience with the Filipino national workforce has been extremely enjoyable.  We really value these individuals and consider them part of our family,” he added. ###