Given that nearly all the operation in the Gulf of Mexico is American, with Transocean owning and operating the rig; Halliburton involved; the employees mostly American and with the US regulator in charge – it is pretty amazing how BP is bowing and scraping.  Wonder why.

The best guess is that they were aware how bad the spill was from the start and maybe that there were things best not in the public domain, so as long as the cost was tolerable – better to pay up and keep stum.

The reality is that many Corporations are now so big that they operate above national governments and largely outside their control.  The notion that they operate within a democratic system is frankly bizarre – they don’t.  They will use their power and financial resources to achieve their own ends regardless of the means, or the country they are operating in, or the rules that should apply.  But we cannot singularly blame them as all too often corrupt officials or politicians will ‘adjust’ the rules for quite modest favors or payments.

The US officials are equally responsible as they either did know how this rig was operating or should have done so.  But an oil hungry country dependant for about 2/3 of its consumption on imported oil doesn’t want to rock the boat – it wants the oil.  So long as accidents don’t happen – who cares?  But when an accident does happen then everybody cares and everybody blames everybody else.

I guess it would be unreasonable to expect Obama to have got on top of absolutely everything, but clearly there is American Government responsibility and failure here.  BP and the operator were allowed to do what they did.  So how was it all set up?

Once you look below the surface things are often not what you expect.  It seems oil rigs are the same as ships – just so happens they are not meant to move around but they can be ‘registered’ anywhere, and the Deepwater Horizon Rig that exploded and caused the problem has a convoluted set up:

  • Transocean is a Swiss Company but with offices around the world and a major one in Houston. They owned and operated the rig.
  • Their Safety Vision is “Our operations will be conducted in an incident-free workplace – all the time, everywhere”.  They might have missed on this one.
  • Their Integrity & Honesty statement is “Our actions will be conducted following the highest standard of ethics, honesty and personal integrity”. !
  • Their Safety Statement is “Personal safety and employee health is our greatest responsibility, followed by the protection of our environment and company property”.  Certainly didn’t meet any of these.
  • The rig was under contract to BP.
  • It operated under the Flag of convenience of ‘The Marshall Islands’ who were therefore technically responsible for the safety and inspections.

Now just to help, The Marshall Islands are a group of about 30 islands lost somewhere in the Pacific with hardly any land area or people and we might expect not particularly well suited to carrying out inspections on the Deepwater Horizon.  In fact there probably isn’t anybody there who knows what these rigs are or do.  If one anchored there they would probably think the end was nigh.

So if we compare the various mission statements listed above we could be forgiven for asking if they were bought as a standard list off the web.  I mean, if they were serious how could they register with The Marshall Islands?

It seems likely that BP registered the rig in this way, but if I can uncover this chain of irresponsibility – then the American authorities certainly would have – so they were fully aware of the conditions the rig was operating under in their back yard providing the oil they want.  Now in my book that makes them equally responsible as somebody somewhere must have colluded with BP and Transocean and everybody else involved.  So now the **** has hit the fan, everybody is trying to run and hide.  I am afraid the US authorities cannot get away from this one.  They are culpable.  And if BP is behaving as it is – methinks they have a lot to hide.

It is a hugely sad state of affairs that may end very unhappily but one moral to be learnt is that Corporations are not just a bit too big – they are massively too big and quite beyond national controls.  BP may even be brought down, but taking one business out won’t solve anything.  It would just put more power in the hands of those left. 

And as the US authorities have closed down many rigs operating in the Gulf – they must know there are many other risky operations going on.  Laying all the blame on BP should come back to haunt the entire US administration.  And if it doesn’t, why doesn’t it?