The search for 10 energy industry workers off the Mexican Gulf coast continued into Friday evening as Tropical Storm Nate bore down on the oil-rich Bay of Campeche.
Twenty-foot waves and gale force winds lashed the area where the Trinity II, a liftboat chartered by Houston-based Geokinetics, foundered on Thursday, said Victor-Manuel Perez, captain of the Port of Frontera.
The crew of a nearby ship saw three workers from Geokinetics, four from New Iberia, La.-based Trinity Liftboats and three from another firm getting into a life raft at 12:25 p.m. Thursday, said Brenda Taquino, human resources director for Geokinetics.
That ship could not attempt a rescue because of rough weather conditions.
The liftboat crew had sent out a distress message saying the storm had disabled their vessel and they were abandoning ship. Liftboats, self-propelled vessels with open decks that can rise above the water on legs reaching the ocean floor, perform numerous functions in support of offshore work.
The life raft the men boarded has a roof, can be sealed from the weather and carries several days of food and water, but no communication system, Taquino said.
“Our No. 1 priority is the safety and rescue of our employees and everyone on the life raft, and staying in contact to support the families of our employees,” Taquino said.
The Geokinetics workers are not Americans, Taquino said, and none of the 10 workers is from Houston.
The Courier in Houma, La., identified the four Trinity workers as Jeremy Parfait of Houma; and Craig Myers, Ted Derise Jr., and Nick Reed of New Iberia. Reed’s father, Randy Reed, is the president of Trinity.
“We’re optimistic. They’re good seamen. They’re professionals at what they do,” Reed told the newspaper. “The life raft is out there, we just haven’t found it yet … We’re all working diligently to locate the raft so we can locate our loved ones.”
Pemex, the Mexican national oil company, had two vessels and a helicopter looking for the life raft. Two other ships are monitoring the Trinity II, which is drifting but has not sunk, Taquino said.
The Trinity II was under contract to Geokinetics for use as a platform for seismic work related to an ocean-bottom cable project in the Bay of Campeche.
The U.S. Coast Guard is monitoring the situation and has been in contact with the Mexican Navy, but so far has not deployed any vessels or aircraft to assist with the search, said Petty Officer Stephen Lehman, a spokesman for U.S. Coast Guard District 8 in New Orleans.
If the Coast Guard does dispatch crews or equipment, they likely will come from the Coast Guard’s Houston office, he said.
Geokinetics has two crews working in Mexico, according to an August 2011 presentation on the company website — one onshore and one in the Bay of Campeche.
Chronicle reporter Dudley Althaus contributed to this story from Mexico.