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New CNOOC Uganda President Faces Challenge in Addressing Safety Record

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CNOOC Uganda's Safety Record Under Scrutiny as New President Takes Charge
CNOOC Uganda's Safety Record Under Scrutiny as New President Takes Charge
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A recent fatal accident in the Kingfisher Project Area operated by CNOOC Uganda, a subsidiary of China’s CNOOC International, has raised concerns about the company’s employee health, safety, and welfare record. The Petroleum Authority of Uganda, the sector’s regulator, has expressed dismay over the incident and highlighted previous safety warnings that went unheeded.

Ernest T. Rubondo, Executive Director of the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, conveyed the Authority’s disappointment regarding the fatal incident, which occurred on October 6, 2023. He emphasized that this unfortunate incident follows a series of safety concerns previously raised with CNOOC Uganda Limited (CUL). Rubondo stated that such a trend is unacceptable as it jeopardizes personnel safety and tarnishes the sector’s reputation.

The Authority also extended condolences to the family of the sub-contractor personnel who lost their life in a motor vehicle accident in the Kingfisher Project Development Area on the same day. In response to these incidents, the Petroleum Authority of Uganda has suspended all Kingfisher field operations until further notice, with exceptions for activities necessary for field safety and security. The Authority has also scheduled an online meeting via Zoom on Sunday, October 8, 2023, to discuss the incident and determine the way forward.

Liu Xaingdong, who assumed the presidency of CNOOC Uganda in July of the same year, is facing a significant test in his new role. He succeeded Mr. Chen Zhuobiao, who held the position since September 2020. Prior to his presidency, Liu served as the Head of the Development and Production department at CUL from 2011 to 2015 and later as Vice President at CNOOC International until May 2023.

Among the two co-developers of Uganda’s oil and gas fields in the Albertine Graben, TotalEnergies EP Uganda B.V and CNOOC Uganda, the latter has a history of health and safety concerns, as well as issues related to employee welfare. Apart from the “several safety incidents” reported by the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, the company has faced criticism for disparities in safety standards between Ugandan and Chinese expatriate workers, particularly in hazardous working conditions.

In October 2014, the Authority directed CNOOC to address complaints from its Ugandan workers regarding mistreatment and differing safety standards. Workers also alleged significant pay disparities, with Ugandan employees earning considerably less than their Chinese counterparts. PAU’s Enerst T. Rubondo issued a letter in September 2014 urging CNOOC to address these employee-related concerns.