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

Yes, its commonly called a storm packer.

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Well that’s the biggest problem isn’t it? Where are the lessons learned? How are we supposed to improve is an industry and prevent future deaths if we don’t know the truth?

Two decades ago every incident was documented and distributed both internally and externally. People talked extensively about incidents like this. Now everyone is expected to keep their mouths shut until the official report comes out (which rarely ever happens).

I just talked to a Rig Manager at Transocean and he doesn’t even know who was involved in the decision.


It has been a feature of many disasters that the man in charge on the rig or the vessel had been talking to the management back on the beach recently , doubtless influencing whatever decisions were being taken . The Assistant Rig Manager, notionally in charge of the Glomar Java Sea when it sank, was actually on the phone to the office at the time. But in no instance have the content of these calls been identified in the investigations.

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Yep. I have a first hand source about a call made which I can’t publish but changes the entire story. I talked with USCG investigators before the El Faro hearings and begged them to subpoena the INMARSAT call log of the ship and cell phone records of all involved. It never happened. My source was never asked to testify and his name is not in any records I’ve seen. He’s not in Slade’s book or media reports either because he was using a company phone and doesn’t have the records himself to prove he made the call. Without that proof I can’t report it.

Every police detective in the world knows to ask for phone records but apparently the USCG and NTSB doesn’t.

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The CIA could learn lesson about keeping secrets from Transocean. As a corporation they NEVER admit fault and pass responsibility around from the client to the contractors to the OIM/captain/rig manager. The government regulatory authorities are either emasculated or complicit. The client Beacon is a Blackstone subsidiary which immediately rings bells for me. What expertise and experience does a hedge fund have in drilling wells? None, though I am sure they hired some well credentialed experts at a very high salary with large bonus opportunities. If those guys roll the dice one time and win they’d be set for life. It’s the culture of Blackstone. I don’t even know of Beacon is still in business as I can’t find recent records of them. There is much more that needs to be known before drawing conclusions but since the Horizon they have gotten even smarter. No written records or phone logs.

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Don’t forget too that Beacon is the presumptive lessee for the yet unsigned contract for newbuild Deepwater Atlas. That’s a billion-dollar debt hole that I could see weighing on management decisions not to piss off Beacon with the Asgard.

Thanks for the info. The management team of Beacon is a joke insofar as drilling in deepwater.

In this instance it is obvious to the untrained eye in the courts that while the problems with the drilling rig and the well are centre stage there appears to be a ship underneath it. Not a semi submersible that they can say or imply is different when it’s not. With that established the front page of the ISM code should do for starters. If the telephone conversations with management ashore were not recorded onboard then they were naive and stupid.
If there is a record of the conversations and there was any form of coercion or threats then I would expect a number of things to happen. The underwriters for the damage will be keen to withdraw cover for the damage in the first instance. When the courts have played out part one I would expect the regulatory authorities to revisit the part that senior management played to make an example and to ensure that masters/ OIMS etc know that they are there to make safety decisions without fear.

I’m not going to hold my breath for the uscg to act and even if they do now what evidence is there? It’s too late to pull the voyage data recorder. They never seem to be able to subpoena many company records.


To which I will add another yep. It’s not a surprise to find that mariners are world class cynics.

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I wouldn’t rush to be too sure about that, especially if he has good lawyers who can adequately front the costs. I wish him luck.

Burden of proof is on the Plaintiff. What exactly can he prove? The vessel did not sink, there were no physical injuries, at least documented, was there any environmental documented? I’m not on anyone’s side, just trying to state a point or start a discussion. If you take away his history from the DWH, what proof of evidence does he have that will help win his case?

Every Jones Act lawyer looks at unseaworthiness. I would go into the emergency response manual and cyclone avoidance, and then ask why this was not followed thereby subjecting employees to unacceptable risk. I would also ask about their policy in terms of the ISM and SEMS. If the office overrods a Master’s decision, was overriding authority supplanted by the organization? Was the DPA called by any crewmember? Are those contact details posted as required? There are a litany of questions that a Jones Act attorney will look at to prove unseaworthiness. It’s not that diffcult (really) to find some sort of oversight, over due maintenance - even purposly delayed to end of well, etc…to get to that outcome. The real question becomes proving damage liable and what that looks like. This case seems to be a process/procedure issue more that an engineering failure as compared to DWH. In that respect, apples and oranges. Just my two cents, I guess we will see. This one smells of settlement to keep the laundry in the hamper.


The fact is the vessel remained latched up in the path of a hurricane.

As I recall, tort claims for emotion distress generally require some “physical manifestations,” but that can be indigestion, trouble sleeping, a rash, hair loss, or any number of relatively “minor” physical problems.

Where leaving them in the path of a hurricane was intentional, that might not require “physical manifestations.”

The rig was obviously unseaworthy because it had an incompetent Master. No competent Master would have allowed the office to dictate that the rig remain latched up in the path of a hurricane against his better judgment. The Master failed to do his duty to keep the crew safe which made the rig unseaworthy, even though the rig and crew survived.

It’s in the public interest that rig operators not be allowed to expose people and the environment to huge risks in the path of hurricanes just to save a few dollars.

If they have good lawyers fronting big money for costs, plus their time, they must have a realistic prospect of winning significant damages.

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Because it may be the easiest claim to prevail on, it only requires that the condition exists, proving negligence isn’t required. Unseaworthiness is not confined to the obvious things a lay person thinks of when they hear that term. It can be just about anything, including fish slime on the handrail of a fishing boat, see Mitchell v. Trawler Racer, Inc.


You’re right. If there was an expectation of a lawsuit, there may have been a conscious effort to restrain initial reporting as BSEE took lead.

This says it all, straight from the BSEE Alert:

“Recognize and differentiate the roles and responsibilities between the Ultimate Work
Authority (UWA) in the field and onshore management for determining the course of
action when severe weather is approaching.”

Why would this statement even be a recommendation? I’m pretty sure regulation takes care of this one inherenty.


Here’s the forecast from the NHC for Oct 24th.

Incident was on the 28th.


That is definitely an odd recommendation, as UWA is clearly defined in the SMS as the Master/OIM, quite obviously differentiating the role and responsibility from anyone on shore.

I can’t believe that BSEE alert was issued a full 5+ months after the event!

Regarding T-time, I recall ours always including time to pull and start to run away or drift/pull a certain distance from the well. The way that timeline is written in the alert it seems they were either very far behind schedule or their T-time was time to unlatch, which I’m sure it wasn’t. Not to mention the Red Watch Circle should not be the boundary of max riser angle such that once you unlatch your riser is touching the moon pool edge!

As for unseaworthiness…I’d highlight the issue pointed out in the lawsuit that not all the riser tentionsers were known to be in satisfactory condition. That’s a bit damning, and clearly seen in this video clip (I do not know the source/person who recorded it):


" I’ve seen video and pictures of the aftermath. It was rough. There was significant damage to the rig. They probably should have un-latched and run. But compensation for negligence ? Traumatized by the weather? Its a ship that was designed for survival in heavy weather, and it survived. Is this really actionable? Is there not an expectation of rough weather when you put to sea?"
Let’s take a look at a different scenario ; Say I drive my vehicle down the interstate going 170 MPH because the vehicle is rated at 170MPH and I don’t get caught or get into a wreck. Should I continue to drive 170mph down the interstate ? If I were to get caught by law enforcement how would the " my vehicle is rated to go 170mph hold up in court " ? Would it be a simple speeding ticket or would I go to jail ? USCG vessels are rated to self right themselves in the event of a capsize. Has anyone ever witnessed the USCG purposely capsizing their vessels just because they are rated to self right ? Vessels do encounter heavy weather at times, but to purposely allow a vessel to encounter heavy weather when there are alternatives, is absolutely positively NEGLIGENCE !!! I hope the seamen win the lawsuit and get awarded 20 million each to send a message to the maritime industry !!!