USCG Makes Positive Changes To Deepwater Horizon Hearings

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August 20, 2010

gCaptain has been critical of the Deepwater Horizon Investigation panel in the past. From off-topic lines of question to verbal arguments between the Parties In Interest and from missing witnesses to objections from lawyers that prevent the inclusion of fact… the proceedings have not, thus far, been a good reflection of the United States Coast Guard.

But, just as we where starting to write an article suggesting the NTSB takes over, a glimmer of hope showed up in our inbox. Today the joint investigation team announced:

Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Co-Chairs J. David Dykes (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) and Captain Hung Nguyen (U.S. Coast Guard) today announced that U.S. District Judge (Ret.) Wayne R. Andersen and U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Mark R. Higgins will be joining the Deepwater Horizon Joint Investigation Team. The addition of Judge Andersen and Capt. Higgins will increase the depth and diversity of the team, drawing on their vast expertise in managing and facilitating complex proceedings.

The public hearings in this matter began on May 11, 2010, and have continued during the weeks of May 26 and July 19. The next hearings are scheduled to take place beginning on August 23, 2010, in Houston, Texas.

“The addition of Judge Andersen and Capt. Higgins to the Joint Investigation Team will enhance our work and help us to move expeditiously through the proceedings. They will assist us with some of the legal and procedural issues they are experienced, and allow the other members of the team to continue to focus on gathering the facts,” said Dykes. “They are welcome additions to our team.”

That (hopefully) settles one of our complaints, the second is the board’s criminalization of those working aboard the rig, a problem given the fact that major problems have been found in the design of the well and in decisions made from shore, many of which required the rig hands to take blind risk, but, at the conclusion of the last round of hearings, no shore-side manager had be appointed a person of special interest. This did not make sense to us as the single most important section, at least from a mariners perspective, of the ISM code is the sharing of responsibility for wrongdoing between workers at sea AND managers ashore.

Recently, however, the position of the USCG of only naming those aboard the rig to the list changed with the designation of Patrick O’Bryan, Vice President of Drilling and Completions BP, as a party of interest. gCaptain hopes that no criminal liability is found and this was simply an unavoidable incident, but we are please to know that mariners will not be the only people facing scrutiny here, and we further hope the Captain, OIM and Chief Engineer will be removed from the, now infamous, list to balance the onus responsibility between those working on rigs and those calling the shots from an office ashore.

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