Outsourcing Safety?


Just when you think the backstory to this installment-plan oil spill disaster can’t get much worse – and, really, I never think that because history teaches us that normal people don’t think like oil company executives – along comes another chapter.

A Los Angeles Times story outlines that the Deepwater Horizon was “… built in South Korea. It was operated by a Swiss company under contract to a British oil firm. Primary responsiblity for safety and other inspections rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a tiny impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean.”

Which, the report continues, outsourced its inspection responsiblity to private companies.

What may be worse, the regulations apparently allowed BP to place an oil company manager ahead of the rig’s captain in making key safety decisions. Some workers have said this sort arrangement may have been a factor in the explosion and resulting spill.

Look, this should come as no surprise. We’ve known all along that maritime law would come into play with the spill, and that BP will eventually use the complexity of the situation to try and wiggle off the hook.

Also from the L.A. Times “Today, these oil rigs can operate under different, very minimal standards of inspection established by international maritime treaties,” said Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

See the story here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-oil-inspection-20100615,0,3043517,full.story

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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