Seacrest Drillship

Rig:

Seacrest Drillship

Date:

03 November 1989

Location:

Platong Gas Field, Gulf of Thailand

Operator:

Unocal

Fatalities:

91

Summary

Details of the Seacrest capsize tragedy are sketchy. Newspaper reports state that 97 crew were working aboard the 4400-tonne Unocal-owned drillship in the South China Sea, around 430 kilometres south of Bangkok, when it capsized in heavy seas during Typhoon Gay. No distress signals were heard from the Seacrest and none of its lifeboats were found, suggesting that the capsize occurred too quickly for the crew to respond.

The ship was reported missing on Saturday, 4 November 1989 and a search helicopter located the Seacrest floating upside-down 0815 local time on Sunday, 5 November 1989. Two rescue crew were landed on the up-turned hull of the ship to check for survivors. They tapped on the hull in the hope that some crew may have survived in an airpocket inside the ship, but received no reponse. Over the following days, Thai Navy divers searched the ship and found two bodies in the hull.

Newspapers reported a total of 97 crew on board the Seacrest: 64 Thais, seven Americans, four Australians, four Britons, three Canadians, two Danes, two Filipinos, one Italian, one New Zealander, eight Singaporeans and one West German. Reports suggest that 91 crew were lost with 6 survivors, but even contemporary reports are confused: The New York Times reported Unocal's initial announcement on 4 November 1989 that six survivors picked up by Thai fishermen were not Seacrest survivors, while The Times (UK) stated on 6 November 1989 that between four and seven Seacrest crew did survive. A later publication in 1990 by Royal Observatory Hong Kong about the tropical cyclones of 1989 noted that six of the 97 Seacrest crew survived.

The drillship is also mentioned briefly in a US Navy document discussing Typhoon Gay, where it is noted that the eye appeared to have passed over the Seacrest, after which heavy seas caused the ship to capsize. Other reports state that the Seacrest had a derrick full of pipe when storm hit, with a high centre of gravity contributing to the accident. Trace records indicate that the wreck of the Seacrest was salvaged for investigation and then scuttled.

Sources:

The Sunday Age (Australia) newspaper: 5 November 1989 'Four Australians feared drowned'
The Age (Australia) newspaper: 6 November 1989 'Australians missing at sea after typhoon'
The Age (Australia) newspaper: 8 November 1989 'Bodies found in hull'
The Times (UK) newspaper: 6 November 1989
New York Times: 97 Missing in Capsizing
Thai Wreck Diver: Seacrest
Royal Observatory Hong Kong: Tropical Cyclones in 1989 PDF document
US Navy Naval Maritime Forecast Centre: Typhoon Gay PDF document

Photos
1. Thai Wreck Diver