Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Exclusive: Brazil battles dozens of coronavirus cases on offshore oil rigs

CoronavirusApr 14, 2020 08:35PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items

By Marta Nogueira and Gram Slattery

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - There have been 126 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among oil and gas workers in Brazil, including 74 people who were recently on offshore oil platforms, regulator ANP told Reuters on Tuesday, exposing an outbreak far worse than previously thought.

The regulator said via email that as of Monday evening there were another 897 suspected cases of coronavirus in the industry, which employs tens of thousands of Brazilians and is a key bulwark of Latin America's largest economy.

Companies have been girding for outbreaks in the offshore oil industry, where employees often work, sleep and eat in close quarters. While isolated cases have been reported in other oil-producing areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea, Brazil's offshore fields appear to have been hit the hardest.

Although the impact on production in Brazil has been modest so far, skeletal staffing is already stalling development in some of the world's most promising offshore oil fields, adding to uncertainty as global demand for petroleum dries up.

The ANP released the coronavirus statistics for the industry after a request for comment regarding an internal document from state-run oil firm Petrobras, seen by Reuters.

That document showed Petrobras had recorded 59 suspected coronavirus cases and 19 confirmed cases last week among employees and subcontractors in one deep-sea oil-producing region, known as the Santos Basin.

All 19 confirmed cases were located on one ship operated by Japanese oil services firm Modec Inc, according to the document. The suspected cases were spread among a dozen offshore and nearby coastal facilities, including 11 suspected cases at a platform in the prolific Lula oilfield.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the company is formally known, said in a statement that the company does not publicize coronavirus cases in order to protect the privacy of employees and their families.

The firm added that it had taken stringent measures to protect offshore workers from the virus. Those include seven-day quarantine and monitoring periods before they embark, as well as evacuation of any offshore workers with respiratory issues, whether or not they appear to be coronavirus-related.

Modec also declined to release coronavirus statistics, citing privacy concerns. It said it quickly evacuated all employees after a worker was determined to have the coronavirus, and that it had adopted a series of measures to ensure worker security, including testing all workers before they go aboard.


The coronavirus pandemic has heaped pressure on workers already fearful of losing their jobs, according to conversations with ten oil workers, executives and union officials, some of whom requested anonymity as they were not permitted to speak publicly. As in most oil producing regions, service firms in Brazil have laid off or furloughed thousands of employees, as rock-bottom demand for crude makes some oilfields unprofitable.

Two states at the heart of Brazil's oil industry, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, are major coronavirus hotspots, with nearly 13,000 of the country's more than 25,000 confirmed cases, according to Health Ministry data on Tuesday.

The dilemma is particularly intense at private firms, where workers have fewer labor protections and can be laid off more easily than at Petrobras, Brazil's largest oil producer.

One executive at a major, Europe-based oil services firm told Reuters the company had prevented at least seven employees from entering its building in the coastal city of Macaé after exams at the front door indicated they had coronavirus symptoms.

The firm had collected evidence indicating some employees were taking paracetamol, a pain and fever medication, to hide symptoms, he said.

Adaedson Costa, the head of Brazil's National Federation of Oil Workers, or FNP, criticized Petrobras for keeping unions in the dark about the number of coronavirus cases and deaths among its employees and affiliates.

Petrobras said it was in frequent dialogue with business partners to ensure they were following best practice regarding the virus. The company added that it had been talking "periodically" with unions, "evaluating the suggestions received and reporting the adopted measures."

Exclusive: Brazil battles dozens of coronavirus cases on offshore oil rigs

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email