USCG Leadership Displays Ignorance at Hearings, Criminalization Of The US Mariner Continues

John Konrad
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July 20, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Chief Engineer Steve Bertone

When gCaptain interviewed Admiral Thad Allen, then CG Commandant, last year and asked about the increase in the criminalization of mariners, he was quick to lay down the facts that technology, not an increase of investigation, has assisted the USCG in finding mariners guilty of criminal acts. Fair enough but why are mariners being singled out? Businessweek tells us:

Rig Captain May Face Criminal Probe

Curt Kuchta, master of the Deepwater Horizon when it burned and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in April, has been designated a “party of interest” by a joint U.S. Coast Guard- Interior Department panel probing the catastrophe, said Kyle Schonekas, Kuchta’s lawyer.

Under federal rules, that means Kuchta could be charged if the investigative panel concludes crimes were committed, Schonekas said. Other parties of interest named by the panel include James Harrell, Transocean’s offshore installation manager on the rig, and Douglas Brown, the chief mechanic, according to the panel’s website.

“When you’re designated as a party of interest, it means you’re a target,” Schonekas said in an interview today in Kenner, Louisiana, where the panel is conducting public hearings. “The objectionable thing about this is that they named my client a party of interest after he had already testified.” Continue reading…

gCaptain protested Captain Nguyen’s heated exchanges with the lawyers defending the rights of Captain Kuchta and Jimmy Harrell which increased in intensity to the point of Nguyen threatening to remove the mariner’s legal representation if they continued to voice their objections! Objections grounded in the fact that the late appointment of these individuals as parties of interest has denied rights due to them in the marine safety manual. He even went as far as suggesting the board no longer considered them to be innocent after hearing their testemony.

In breaking news Steve Bertone, the vessel’s Chief Engineer, was listed today, just hours after his investigation, as being added to the party of interest list despite repeated testimony stating his heroic and selfless effort to start the standby generator.

gCaptain has confirmed with sources working inside of Transocean, sources who wish to remain nameless, that the lawyers representing Kuchta, Harrela, and Bertone are all local to New Orleans not due to convenience of there residence but because they are in fact being payed by Transocean. This may explain why Bertone refused to answer certain questions, under the advice of his attorney, even after Nguyen counseled him that failure to respond to certain questions could put into question his competency and ability to perform the duties of Chief Engineer.

gCaptain is deeply upset by Captain Nguyen’s targeting of mariners despite mounting evidence the blowout occurred due to poor decisions made by BP and Transocean management. And we will continue to object, until the licensed mariners in this case are removed from the list of parties of special interest designation or, in the least, shoreside managers & BP managers who made poor decisions and did nothing to directly save the lives of 115 crew-members are added to Nguyen ‘s List.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen as marine safety is the only topic the USCG board members have displayed competence in and the MMS (now called the BOEMRE) officials have shown no willingness to assign culpability to drilling managers. The fact remains that todays mariners are actively managed by office personnel and it’s the actions of these personnel that needs to be questioned, not those of the people aboard who may have made mistakes but also made the best of a terrible situation.

gCaptain stands behind the Deepwater Horizon mariners, do you? Post your answer in the comments section below.


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