An oil platform exploded at approximately 9:00 a.m. on September 2, 2010, approximately 200 miles west of where the BP Oil explosion occurred. There were 13 crewmembers aboard the oil platform, who all were tossed into the water, and were floating there until the rescuers arrived. One of those crewmembers was rushed to a hospital. The Coast Guard would not confirm whether any oil had actually leaked into the water. Although such a fire aboard an oil platform might be considered something that happens somewhat frequently, and not receive a lot of attention in the past, the BP Oil spill has caused this recent explosion to receive national attention. This explosion again raises the issue which environmental groups are arguing, which is that the current federal moratorium on deep water offshore drilling is necessary. This particular platform was not drilling and was not in deep water.
A letter from House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep., Henry A. Waxman, who is part of the investigation of the BP Oil spill, wrote the following in the Los Angeles Times “in the wake of the BP catastrophe, this is an extremely disturbing event,” and “I call on the administration to immediately redouble safety reviews of all offshore drilling and platform operations in the Gulf and take all appropriate action to ensure safety and protection of the environment.”
Another article in Politico states that Reps. Bart Stupak and Ed Markey “are leading the investigation in two subcommittees” of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The story states that “the explosion will almost certainly bolster Democrats’ contention that off-shore drilling is not yet safe enough,” and Republicans have “said offshore drilling should not be halted, but safety measures should be improved. This incident will likely give both sides more ammo going into an election season where Democrats are furiously trying to paint Republicans as friends with Big Oil.”
Finally, the Wall Street Journal reported that this recent explosion may hamper the oil industry’s efforts to portray the BP Oil spill as a fluke event.
The dangers of working on an offshore patrolling platform have become even more apparent in the wake of the BP Oil spill disaster which resulted in serious injuries and deaths.
The BP Oil spill has resulted in movements to change the Maritime Laws in order to provide fair and adequate compensation to the Oil Rig workers, by eliminating Limitation of Liability Laws and severe restrictions on the recoverability of damages in wrongful death Maritime cases. I previously reported on such legislation and the fact that the initial proposed legislation is meeting with a lot of resistance on Capitol Hill due to heavy lobbying by shipping interests, including the cruise ship industry.
The explosions we are reading about, highlighting the dangers crewmembers face when working aboard oil rigs, should sway our Congressmen to vote for better laws which would provide adequate compensation to victims involved in an incident occurring aboard an oil rig.
Oil rig workers can bring claims under the Jones Act, as well under the General Maritime Law. Currently if a death occurs on the high seas the damages will be severely limited. The Limitation of Liability Laws also provide owners of oil rigs and vessels with added protections that in my opinion have no justification. The Limitation of Liability Laws are archaic. They need to be eliminated. Many courts have recognized these laws are outdated and serve no useful function in the modern day shipping world. However, they are still Congressional Acts, and currently the basis under Maritime Law for any vessel owners to limit their liability for disasters that occur which seriously injure or kill individuals.
BP Oil has announced they have spent almost 8 Billion Dollars in response to the oil spill disaster. It is apparent BP Oil is engaged in an extensive public relations campaign to advise the public of their responses to the oil spill disaster and the amount of money they are spending in response. It is clear BP is trying to divert focus from the wrong doing that resulted in the BP Oil spill disaster, which many have stated rises to the level of reckless indifference for the safety and lives of others, and BP hopes that the amount of money they have spent in response will somehow convince Congress to lessen the penalties or exposures as a result of the disaster.
The purpose of our system of justice, and our tort system is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their acts. If wrongdoers are held fully accountable, the system results in the wrongdoers taking actions to improve safety. The amount BP Oil has spent so far is simply evidence of the extensive and far reaching effects this disaster has had. Hopefully, our Congress will not lose the focus, which should be on the archaic Maritime laws that need to be changed in order to fully compensate the victims of these types of disasters, and fully hold accountable all shipowners, including owners and operators of oil rigs, as well as the cruise ship industry.
As I reported previously, the cruise ship industry has been one of the major lobbyists trying to prevent the elimination of the restriction of damages for deaths that occur on the high seas. This is because most cruise ships operate on the high seas, and when a death does occur it is typically a death that happens on the high seas, providing the cruise ship company with the right to severely limit their accountability to the victim’s family.