Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency today (Thursday, April 29, 2010), as winds drove the massive oil spill created as a result of the Transocean Explosion toward the state’s coast and authorities scrambled to mitigate its environmental effects. The slick was some 16 miles off Louisianain the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of last week’s oil rig explosion, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Authorities said the slick could begin affecting some coastal areas by Thursday evening, with the bulk expected Friday. Most of the slick is a thin sheen on the water’s surface. About 3 percent of it is a heavy, puddinglike crude oil.
The slick covered at least 600 square miles of water Thursday. Ten wildlife refuges or management areas in Mississippi and Louisiana are in the oil’s likely path; the first likely to be affected is the Pass-a-Loutre Wildlife Management Area at the tip of the Mississippi River. Wind patterns out of the Southeast over the next few hours are increasing the likelihood the oil will come ashore. At a White House briefing, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she has designated the leak a “spill of national significance,” meaning officials can draw down assets from other areas to combat it.
A command center already is open in Robert, Louisiana. A second will be opened in Mobile, Alabama. The Coast Guard had hoped to conduct another controlled burn of the oil slick Thursday, but sea and wind conditions have prevented that from happening.
An estimated amount of 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, a day is leaking into the Gulf from the Transocean Oil Rig Explosion last week. The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, and search efforts have been halted for 11 missing workers.
BP is the owner of the well, while Transocean Ltd. owns and operates the rig.
There are many plans in motion to attempt to stop the massive oil spill. First, a relief well is planned and the first rig to be used for drilling it will begin drilling about a half-mile from the leaking well Friday, however, the relief well will not be complete for months. Second, a collection dome will be deployed to the seafloor to collect oil as it leaks from the well.
The oil spill has the potential to become one of the worst in U.S. history, according to the Coast Guard.
The blame game for the Transocean catastrophe has already begun. The head of BP Group told CNN’s Brian Todd in an exclusive interview Wednesday that the accident could have been prevented, and he focused blame on rig owner Transocean. CEO Tony Hayward said that Transocean’s blowout preventer failed to operate before the explosion. However, that can then be blamed on the preventer’s manufacturer Cameron International. Transocean Vice President Adrian Rose has said its oil rig had no indication of problems before the explosion.
Captain of Fishing Boat That Sank in Alaska, Hailed As Hero
The captain of a commercial fishing vessel that sank off the coast of Alaska last week is being credited with saving the lives of his crews.
The 75-foot fishing vessel Alaska Belle went down in the Gulf of Alaska on Tuesday. There were three people on the vessel – Capt. Robert Royer and three crewmembers. As the vessel began to tilt, Royer managed to send out an emergency distress signal to the Coast Guard. Just a few seconds later, the captain fell overboard as the vessel began to capsize. According to the crewmembers, he did not surface.
The crewmembers swam around in the ocean for more than three hours till Coast Guard air crews arrived. According to the four crewmembers, the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon did not emit a signal. That means that if Royers had not made that frantic call to the Coast Guard, there would have been no way that rescue crews would have known where to find the crewmembers. They would not have been able to survive much longer in the frigid waters of the Gulf of Alaska.
The crewmembers owe a huge debt to the captain, who proved himself a hero in more ways than one. As maritime lawyers, we believe the investigation must focus on the malfunctioning device. These devices are meant to transfer signals that can help emergency crews identify the location of the distressed crews, thereby facilitating rescue efforts. If these devices are defective or malfunctioning, then they are pretty much useless, and can gravely endanger the lives of crewmembers.
Transocean and BP Sued by Missing Crewmember’s Family in New Orleans
BP Plc and Transocean Ltd. were sued by the family of one of 11 workers missing and feared dead in the wake of an explosion two days ago aboard an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. The family of Shane Roshto, a Transocean employee from Mississippi, today sued both companies for negligence in federal court in New Orleans.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which is owned by Transocean and leased by London-based BP, was working about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast when it exploded on April 20.
“Shane Roshto was thrown overboard by the force of the drilling explosion, and his body has not yet been located,’’ Scott Bickford, a lawyer representing the Roshto family, said in the complaint. “The whereabouts of many crew members are still unknown.’’ The Coast Guard said the rig has now sunk.
“The cause of the fire and explosion is unknown at this time,’’ the company said in a statement posted yesterday on its Web site. “An investigation into the cause of the incident and assessment of the damage will be ongoing in the days or weeks to come.’’
115 workers — including 17 injured — were evacuated from the Deepwater Horizon, a 10-year-old semisubmersible rig. The explosion occurred as the crew was completing the concrete casing of a well drilled to a depth of 18,000 feet. Transocean said last year the ultra-deepwater rig drilled the deepest oil and gas well ever, to a depth of more than six miles, while working for BP in the Gulf of Mexico. In September, BP extended its lease on the Deepwater Horizon for three years, agreeing to pay $544 million, or $496,000 per day.
Additional crew members remain missing at this time and their families have spoken out about their fears. Our thoughts go out to the families of Roy Wyatt Kemp, Dewey Revette and the other offshore workers whose whereabouts are unknown at this time.
The case is Roshto v. Transocean Ltd and BP Plc, 2:10-cv- 01156, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana (New Orleans). A second lawsuit has now been filed in Texas and the lawyers who filed that case claim all missing crew are considered dead. We hope that is not the case and that the remaining missing are found soon.
For more information about our firm’s experience handling oil rig accident cases like the Transocean explosion, please click here. To discuss your potentical case, please contact SMSH today at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worker Killed in Accident at Shell Refinery in Port Arthur, Texas
It is being speculated that a “falling object” was responsible for the death of a worker at the Motiva Port Arthur refinery operated by Royal Dutch Shell.
The man died on Monday at an expansion project at the refinery. The victim was an employee of Becon Construction Company. According to Shell which operates the refinery, it is investigating the cause of the man’s death. Currently however, there is speculation that the man was killed by a falling piece of crane equipment.
The expansion project at the Motiva refinery will increase the refinery’s crude processing capacity to 600,000 barrels a day in 2010. When construction is completed, it is expected to be the largest refinery in the United States. There are currently 4,500 workers employed on the construction project. Another thousand workers are expected to join the workforce later in 2010.
During a time of rising unemployment rates nationwide, Texas is enjoying a high rate of growth, greater industry expansion, and more employment opportunities. No Texas work accident lawyer would argue with that. However, we can’t just turn a blind eye to the fact that Texas leads the nation in the number of workplace deaths. In 2008, which is the last year for which accurate fatality rates are available, there were 457 workplace deaths in Texas. We were ahead of California, which was at second place on the list, by 53 fatalities. Between 2008 and 2009, five people died in workplace accidents in southeast Texas alone.
That is a dismal record by any standards. As Texas industrial accident attorneys, we don’t believe that people in Texas should be dying simply because they want to work.
President Obama Issues Executive Order Regarding Maritime Piracy
President Obama has issued an executive order that may prohibit shipowners from paying ransoms to maritime pirates. Additionally, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) issued a list of Somali individuals and organizations that have been added to its SDN list. U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with persons on the SDN list.
The Order shows that the Obama Administration is acutely aware of how serious the maritime piracy situation off the coast of Somalia has become. The pirates and their tactics have grossly affectedthe safety and welfare of the world’s offshore workers and Foreign Mariners, and of course international trade and transport in general. This order also allows the United States to freeze the financial asset of anyone directly or indirectly involved with Somali piracy groups.
The entire text of President Obama’s Executive Order can be found HERE.
For more information about your maritime claims, please contact us at email@example.com.
Missing Sailor Found One Month After Chile Quake
A Gold Coast Australia man who was feared lost at sea after the 8.8-magnitude Chile earthquake has been found after 44 days missing at sea.
Mitchell Westlake, a 23-year-old former Navy officer was feared drowned by his family and friends, but this morning he called his grandfather to say he was safe and well.
Mr. Westlake was on a training cruise when his boat became becalmed more than 1,000 miles off the coast of Chile, unaware of the devastating earthquake.
Apparently, Mr. Westlake and those aboard his vessel had no idea there was a tsunami or an earthquake until they hit port.
Chilean authorities launched a search for the 16-metre yacht SS Columbia, which left Salinas, Ecuador, on January 16 on a sailing course. But, despite a major search there were no sightings or contact from the crew until now.
The yacht was expected to dock at the Chilean city of Coquimbo between February 24 and 27, the day the earthquake struck.
Is Obesity a Risk Factor in Maritime Accidents?
The nationwide epidemic of obesity in the US has finally crossed the ocean, and affected the thousands of seamen engage in maritime commerce. Obesity could dramatically impact the manner in which a seaman is able to discharge his duties on the vessel.
Those concerns were raised in a press release issued by the International Maritime Medical Association. According to the press release, the number of obese seamen on international vessels has increased substantially in recent years. Work at sea is extremely physical and strenuous work. It’s work that was designed for physically fit men, and there is even a phrase –“able-bodied seaman”- that defines how healthy a maritime worker is expected to be. Unfortunately, increasingly high caloric food and unhealthy eating habits have contributed to more cases of obesity among maritime workers.
The International Maritime Medical Association stresses that obesity is a major concern when you’re talking about a seafarer, and as maritime attorneys, we agree. Consider for instance, that all workers on board a vessel will be expected to take part in life-saving procedures during a sudden emergency on board. In such cases, seamen who are overweight and unhealthy may not be able to discharge their duties properly. They may be at a high risk of death or injury, and could increase the risk of injury of other workers on the vessel too.
Shipping companies must make worker health a bigger part of their priorities. Good health does not merely mean three meals a day. It’s high time that vessel owners and operators look into hiring nutritionists and dietitians to plan daily diets for seamen. The diet must take into consideration that these men perform extremely physical and demanding work, and must also be tailored to avoid obesity-related health issues.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured maritime workers, including anchormen, oil rig and offshore workers, cruise ship crews, fishing vessel crews, barge and tugboat operators, and other maritime workers injured in maritime accidents in the state of Texas, and nationwide
Obama Administration Announces Opening of New Areas to Offshore Drilling
Yesterday, President Obama announced that his government will approve new oil and gas drilling sites, including in the Gulf of Mexico.
The expansion is the largest announced in more than half a century. With this, new oil and gas drilling explanation efforts may begin off the coast of Virginia, the Eastern waters of the Gulf of Mexico and in certain waters off Alaska. The new expansion does not include the sensitive Bristol Bay in Alaska, a measure that has been seen as a doff of the hat to environmentalist concerns there. Approximately 130 million acres in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean may become open for exploration after extensive studies.
Obviously, the news has been cheered by the oil and gas industry, especially the news that the Gulf of Mexico region will be open for new exploration. This region is already very familiar with oil drilling efforts, and with the news of the proposed expansion, shares of local companies in the region that provide offshore drilling rigs, including Diamond Offshore, and Transocean, increased yesterday.
The Interior Department will now conduct geological and environmental studies along large parts of the southern and central Atlantic coastline.
Obviously, greater oil and gas exploration efforts in the country make sense from an economic standpoint. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil will require finding new sources of oil within our own borders. However, it’s important that any exploration efforts also take into consideration the substantial dangers to human life and safety during these exploration efforts. Both climate concerns and foreign oil dependence seem to be fashionable issues with the powers-that-be in Washington DC, but offshore and oil rig worker safety must also find a place at the table.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured maritime workers, including offshore and oil rig workers, cruise liner crews, fishing vessel crews, barge and tugboat operators, and other maritime workers throughout the state of Texas and nationwide.
Maritime Pirates have boarded and attacked a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden. The pirates have taken control of the vessel and are holding its 24 crewmembers hostage, sailing the ship toward the Somali Coast. Nato’s counter piracy operation, Ocean Shield, noted that the ship was a mere 10 nautical miles from port when it was hijacked. The the roll-on, roll-off vessel is the M/V Iceberg 1. The 4 500-ton Iceberg, is a Panamanian-flagged vessel owned by Iceberg International Limited.
The last communication from the vessel was a mayday call from the captain saying pirates were boarding the vessel. The 24 crew came from Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
Pirate attacks continue even though there are warships at the ready off the Somali coast. It is believed that this area of oceanis too vast to effectively patrol. Therefore, we believe that the most important safety measures are those what need to occur on board any vessels traveling through this area.
Vessel Captains in the region are advised to operate at heightened state of readiness, maintaining strict anti-piracy measures. Please be sure to report any suspicious activity to the appropriate regional body so that further attacks can be avoided and/or thwarted.
If you would like more information about Maritime Piracy or our firm’s representation of persons injured in the M/V MAERSK ALABAMA pirate attacks, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maritime Advocacy Group Develops Post-Piracy Treatment Program
The Seaman’s Church Institute has published a study into the best practices for the treatment and rehabilitation of seamen, who have suffered through the stresses of a pirate attack. The SCI has used extensive mental health research, and inputs from shipping companies, crewing agencies, and maritime industry representatives to develop a series of practical measures that can be taken to help seamen adjust after their ordeal.
The document includes guidelines that must be followed at 5 different stages of a pirate attack.
When you First Receive News of a Pirate Attack
This section includes guidelines to ensure the safety of seamen and protect them from harm, help them deal with the situation, and keep communication lines open between the vessel and the owners of the vessel, owners of the cargo, government bodies and insurers.
When the Crew is Being Held
The document advises that the company begin to prepare for the crew’s release. This includes determining whether a seaman suffers from a pre-existing medical condition that might have worsened during captivity like heart problems, stroke, anxiety disorders etc. During this time, the company must also maintain a continuous flow of information to the seaman’s family.
When Release is Imminent
Families must be kept updated, with a timeframe when their loved one will be released. Medical and health resources must be ready, to ensure that seamen receive immediate medical care as soon as they disembark.
After the Release of the Crew
Medical assessments must be made, including a psychiatric assessment. After this, the crewmembers must be reunited with their families. Seamen and their families must be aware of the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
When the Seaman Returns to Duty
This includes conducting a medical assessment. It’s highly recommended that the seaman be monitored during the first voyage after the pirate attack, because this when flashbacks and other symptoms of PTSD may be manifested.
As maritime lawyers who are currently representing the victims of the pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama last year, we know how traumatic these ordeals can be for the seamen. It’s good to see a systematic program that can help these workers get back on the road to physical and emotional recovery.