Petrobras Reduces Workforce Amid Virus

(S&P Global Platts, 17.Mar.2020) — Brazilian state-led oil company Petrobras slashed administrative staff by at least 50%, including at operations units such as refineries and production facilities, amid expanding efforts across Latin America’s biggest country to limit social contact and avoid dissemination of COVID-19.

“The measure seeks to contribute to official efforts to reduce circulation in public spaces and keep people at home,” Petrobras said in a statement Tuesday. In-person staff that can work remotely will be reduced by a minimum of at least 50%, except for medical staff, Petrobras said.

Petrobras first announced work-from-home measures last week after an employee at the company’s Rio de Janeiro headquarters contracted COVID-19 while on holiday abroad. While the infection was discovered before the worker returned to the office, Petrobras enacted measures to avoid further spread of the virus such as reducing in-person meetings and restricting employee travel.

The company also repatriated 37 workers from China, where they were involved with subsalt projects such as construction of new floating production, storage and offloading vessels, or FPSOs, at Chinese shipyards. None of the workers tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Brazil and being quarantined.

Brazil has also started to act more aggressively in recent days, shutting down bars, restaurants and public spaces such as Rio’s iconic beaches to varying degrees of success. Beachgoers largely ignored firefighters’ pleas in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, turning a deaf ear to messages blaring over loudspeakers that urged residents to empty packed beaches and return home.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who tested negative for the disease last week, also met with cheering supporters in Brasilia. So far, 14 members of the team Bolsonaro led on an official visit to the US that included meetings with President Donald Trump earlier this month have tested positive for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro is expected to be tested again this week. Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque also tested negative last week.

Brazilian officials said that the number of confirmed cases at 301 on Tuesday, including the country’s first death in Sao Paulo.

Petrobras said that additional measures could be implemented, depending on developments. “Petrobras is evaluating the need for new measures daily, with the support of a permanent committee created to accompany the evolution of the global health scenario caused by the new coronavirus,” Petrobras said.

EVENTS POSTPONED

The global spread of the virus also started to affect oil industry events in Brazil this week.

The Third FPSO Brazil Congress 2020 was postponed, according to event coordinator IQPC. In a statement Tuesday, IQPC said that the FPSO congress would be held September 9-11. The event had been scheduled for May 25-27.

The Brazil Petroleum Institute, or IBP, suspended training sessions at the trade group’s downtown Rio headquarters. IBP offices also will be closed for an undetermined period of time. The group, however, hasn’t made any decisions about the Rio Oil & Gas 2020 conference, which is scheduled to be held September 21-24.

“The IBP is monitoring the situation of the coronavirus and COVID-19 and is prepared to follow the prevention and hygiene guidelines of the World Health Organization and Brazil’s Health Ministry,” the IBP said in a statement. “The safety of our participants, exhibitors, visitors and staff is our priority.”

The deadline to submit technical papers for the conference closed Sunday.

By Jeff Fick

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