Former Employee: Transocean Nearly Caused Oil Rig Catastrophe - Zeta - Deepwater Asgard

Hurricane Zeta hit the Gulf of Mexico on October 28. The day before Transocean and Beacon Offshore Energy allegedly instructed the crew to “stay latched and continue operations.”

“Plaintiff, along with other crew members on board, strongly disagreed with the decision to stay latched but had no other options but to obey orders,” the lawsuit claims.

In the morning on October 28, the captain of the Deepwater Asgard ordered the crew to unlatch the vessel “with no destination in mind.” But the former Transocean employee maintains the current was too fast and it was impossible to control the vessel.

“The vessel lost an engine and began taking on water in two of the thrusters. Engineers aboard the vessel had to rig tarps to stop the water from reaching the remaining thrusters so the captain could control the vessel.”

Previous thread here:

I’m glad you posted that, I had meant to post this one which is a deeper dive in the actual timeline of events and adds some color to why the lawsuit might make more sense:

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Some questionable details as expected:

“The vessel lost an engine and began taking on water in two of the thrusters. Engineers aboard the vessel had to rig tarps to stop the water from reaching the remaining thrusters so the Captain could control the vessel.”

I’ve been on this class, there is no interconnect between thruster spaces.

Maybe they meant down ventilation openings? Loss of propulsion gave them unfavorable aspect for wind driven water?

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Yup good point, you’re likely right, some of those thruster space vent intakes were not too far above deck level on the fantail. And if I recall they took some nasty seas over the stern that caused damage back there.

Unbelievable. We were just south of them. You wanna know what we did? We pulled the LMRP and got the hell out of there with a 24-hour safety factor. You wanna know what the office said? It really doesn’t matter. The decision was made. First of all, I don’t trust forecasters or geologists. Second, If you are a vessel Master and you are willing to let an office override a decision based on vessel safety, please step down. That position is not for you.


Yeah I remember saying something similar once and was told by a rig manager “Well, you’re never gonna make Captain on a Transocean rig with that attitude.” He turned out to be right.

What’s even crazier is the fact they are getting sued by the Senior Subsea engineer aboard (who I happen to know is a solid no bs engineer):

From page 3 of the lawsuit filing: " The Captain ordered the crew to stop the unlatch process until a planned 4:00 pm phone call with officials back in Houston. At the 4:00 pm phone call, Transocean and Beacon ordered the vessel to stay latched despite Hurricane Zeta heading directly for them. Plaintiff… strongly disagreed with the decision to stay latched but had no other options but to obey orders."

It’s pretty bad to follow a shoreside order against your own safe judgment but it seems fuck’n crazy to do so against the strong protest of your own engineers.

Shoreside weather prognosis was rarely in favor of the operator on board the rig or vessel. One reason I never golfed with them. I did however share the course with my beloved engineers and cooks. They ran the boat, not me. I drove it, but not without them. I am home ,safe ,and happily retired because of them.


As you know, not just any Sr SubSea, but the same one who was on the Deepwater Horizon…I get why he’s suing. I truly thought we learned something from DWH.

But that Rig Manager for Asgard should definitely be fired, and I agree with @anchorman that the Capt/OIM should not have had that command. I worked for several who had the spine to say No, so I know they exist.

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Wasn’t there just a thread about placing blame on Mariners on this forum? Seems I remember John posting on that thread and now blame is being thrown awful quickly on a Mariner by fellow mariners. I do not know this Master and it might be all his fault if there is any, but we sure don’t know all the details yet. Many guys on here that actually work on complex vessels and are not just just keyboard warriors that comment about them on a forum know that management of these vessels is very dynamic especially in these times.

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On a side note for another issue I still don’t know how I feel about workers like subsea engineers being classified as Jones act seaman.

Chris is going to have a difficult time winning this case. If he has documented PTSD from the DWH, then maybe he can, but if he doesn’t, using this incident plus his history won’t work. Calling the vessel unseaworthy is a stretch.

I actually worked on complex vessels, and have been on that vessel, and worked with some of those involved, including the master. I don’t know about dynamic, but with 10+ years (prior) working for TOI I know about TOI management and that’s why I’m disappointed in this event.

Likewise I’m curious about SS being jones act seamen.

I’m not so sure. Arnold & Itkin Is a very successful law firm and one common trait of most successful law firms I know is they only take cases they believe they can win.

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Winning and settling are measured the same. Because of what he endured and kept quiet for the most part on the DWH incident, TOI will probably settle out, which yes is a win. But if he has documented ptsd from the DWH, and now this incident, he has a better chance of a higher settlement and or taking it through court for the win.

Most people working on an offshore oil rig qualify for protection under the Jones Act. It applies to workers injured while they participate in their duties on a vessel on a navigatable waterway.

A “vessel” usually refers to boats and barges, but a 2005 court ruling allows oil rigs to qualify as vessels. Oil drilling rigs allowed in the standard include:

  • Tension leg platforms
  • Jack-up rigs
  • Drilling ships
  • Semi-submersible ships
  • Spar platforms

A “navigable waterway” includes the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico and major rivers including the Mississippi River.

The fortunate thing is when you make those types of decisions and stick by them, you generally earn respect from the office, client, and crew. Not just as a Captain, but as a person. If you set yourself up as a leader, you are rarely questioned. At least that’s my personal experience. I’ve never had any pushback from any of the half a dozen or so rig managers that I’ve worked with. I’ve had some rather difficult discussions with the client at times, and have sought the best solution with their interest in mind, but that never overrode any decision in respect to vessel safety and they understood that. If you leave an issue in the well to manage when you get back on location, you manage it then. There must be more to this story, like not being able to set a storm packer, or other operational type delays, etc…

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Actually my intention was to blame the office and the corporate culture. When a company like transocean repeatedly treats those who make the right decisions awfully and makes it crystal clear who is really in charge of operational decisions (Houston) then who’s really at fault?

There is one basic tenant of all great emergency response and military leadership which Transocean continuously fails to learn: courage is directly proportionate to distance from an emergency. The further away you are the easier it is to make the wrong decision.

THAT is why captains still have full regulatory authority… because they literally have skin in the game. Office guys (even the most experienced master mariners working shoreside) do not.

You’re right this forum has its fair share of keyboard warriors except I haven’t seen any of them post to this thread yet. Those who have posted here (so far) all have significant experience aboard complex vessels.


Agreed. And I don’t envy the position.

As to more to the story, the article I posted said they took a kick on the 22nd and may have had liner issues, followed by downtime from the main roughneck. It does say they set and tested twice an RTTS packer. I’m foggy on whether that could have been considered a storm packer/barrier, that with the addition of the closed BOP would have been acceptable from a regulatory /risk tolerable for unlatching the LMRP and pulling to run. But it looks like that was their plan that they actually set in motion before reversing course on the 27th.