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BP stands for Blame Placing

Robert Peston | 13:05 UK time, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

If you eat a dodgy chicken tikka masala bought from one of our best-known supermarket chains, and you feel violently sick afterwards, do you blame the supermarket - or will your ire be directed at the anonymous manufacturer of the product which made the tainted meal?

BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig

Most of us would, I think, hold the supermarket accountable, if its name was on the packet - although it was another company altogether that had the sloppy hygiene standards which caused the poisoning.

We expect the supermarket to take responsibility for the actions of its contractors and suppliers.

And so it is with BP and its findings released today of what caused the calamitous explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which in turn led to 11 deaths and the worst oil spill in US history.

BP's highly technical report uncovers a whole series of accidents, misjudgements and system failures that contributed to the disaster. And says that no one event can be held as the prime cause.

It also points the finger at two of its contractors in particular: Halliburton, responsible for what BP describes as the inadequate cementing of the well; and Transocean, owner and operator of the Deepwater rig, whose employees are alleged to have made a series of misjudgements in the fateful hours before it all went wrong.

BP also concedes that its own employees made mistakes, particularly when it came to interpreting the results of pressure tests.

But I think it is in BP's recommendations for change that many will see the real story, because there BP makes clear that it needs to exercise far better oversight of those who work for it when trying to extract oil from deepwater fields.

Update 14.38: Pages 185 and 186 of the BP report seem to me to carry serious implications. They are headed "contractor and service provider oversight and assurance" and they are recommendations for how BP can make sure that businesses employed by BP do their job adequately.

Here's a smattering of those proposals:

  • "Conduct an immediate review of the quality of the services provided by all cementing services providers".
  • "Assess and confirm that essential well control and well monitoring practices, such as...shut-in procedures, are clearly defined and rigorously applied on all BP-owned and BP-contracted offshore rigs (consider extending to selected onshore rigs...)"
  • "Require hazard and operability reviews of the surface gas and drilling fluid systems for all BP-owned and BP-contracted drilling rigs."


Now all this does rather imply that BP has been far too trusting of those companies it employs to operate drillings rigs or work on the construction of wells.

So it's all very well for BP to describe - as it does - an extraordinary chain of misjudgements, accidents and kit failure, all of which were unfortunate, but none of which was sufficient in isolation to wreak the havoc we've witnessed for months.

But that's not the same thing as saying "everyone or no one is to blame".

To state the obvious, if BP had exercised sufficient oversight - as the named party on the relevant oil lease - then there is a reasonable chance that not every domino would have toppled in the chain reaction that led to mayhem.

Update 16.07: On the critical issue of the design of the well, a massive gulf has opened between BP and Transocean, which owned and operated the Deepwater rig on behalf of BP.

The outgoing chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, said:

"Based on the report, it would appear unlikely that the well design contributed to the incident."

BP's shareholders need him to be right: if the well design was seriously flawed, BP would probably be liable for an additional $15bn or so of fines under the US Clean Water Act (because it might be found guilty of gross negligence).

And, of course, in those circumstances, Transocean itself would be perceived to be relatively more culpable, for the alleged shortcomings it showed as the crisis developed.

So contrast Mr Hayward's assessment with this statement by Transocean:

"This is a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP's fatally flawed well design. In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk - in some cases, severely."

Which of course implies that BP's owners won't be able to assess the long-term damage to their wealth until a dizzying number of official US investigations and court cases are concluded.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    Not sure this adds much to the previous blog Robert, but yes, you are correct:-

    ....mistakes will be made.... others will be blamed.

  • Comment number 2.

    Somehow I think drilling for oil in deep water is a bit more complicated than creating a ready made curry. To compare the two is just wilful ignorance of the fact that there is no 100% safe way to do the job. Neither, since this is an accident report, does it seek to pass the buck onto someone else as the accident obviously happened because 20 things went wrong with lots of people involved. Sorry that it isnt a simple "he did it, lets burn him" situation but please don't treat us as if we are all dumb and can't handle complexity.

  • Comment number 3.

    Determining WHAT went wrong matters, to stop it happening again.

    Determining WHO is irrelevant, unless an actual CRIME was committed.

    We are all to blame, because we all use oil in some way.

  • Comment number 4.

    Robert I agree with Nick comparing a supermarket curry to the far greater complicated and risky venture of extracting oil from deep oceans with the huge sums involved for ALL concerned is a non event. BP ultimately are and will be accountable there is no question of that but lets just take the case of the blow out preventor, Halliburton design & manufacture the device and if it failed to meet the specification they themselves said it would make and we dont know at this stage whether it did or didnt then they should be held accountable also for its failure in much the same way BMW would make Bosch rectify any faulty parts found in recalls on its cars or any other component manufacturer for that matter (just consider the accelerator pedal faults Toyota experianced that the US manufacturer was equally at fault for). Lets not also forget other oil companies use both Transocean and Halliburton in the Gulf of Mexico so is only proper that these two companies are equally investigated in this matter.

  • Comment number 5.

    If only this kind of investigation had been done concerning the banks, rating agencies and financial services. Same issues only BP will be held accountable and the banks will not...just tells you about power and influence with government. Again, like with banking, where was the governmental oversight and inspections? Foxes guarding hen houses usually has these results.

  • Comment number 6.

    There is a difference between "taking responsibility for" and blame.
    BP clearly have to take responsibility for the accident.

    Blame can be subdivided into contractual and moral.

    I have the decorators in at the moment. I hired the scaffolders. If the scaffold collapses and a decorator is injured it's my responsibility. But am I to blame? Morally yes I could be if I briefed the scaffolders badly or hired a dodgy firm. But contractually not if I got the decorators to inspect and confirm they were happy with the installation.

    All we will end up 'learning' from this are reminders that:

    a) A major accidents result from multiple failures - the Titanic disaster remaining one of the earliest classic cases.

    b) If your name is on the tin you'll get the blame.

    c) Contractual culpability is a minefield.

    BP have taken the only sensible course. Recognising that however well they may or may not manage subcontractors, they can't subcontract blame. So there is no choice but to supervise more tightly.

  • Comment number 7.

    At 1:44pm on 08 Sep 2010, SoxSexSax wrote:

    "Determining WHO is irrelevant, unless an actual CRIME was committed."



    Actually, it's very relevant, as ultimately it will determine who foots the billion dollar bill for this.


  • Comment number 8.

    3. At 1:44pm on 08 Sep 2010, SoxSexSax wrote:

    "We are all to blame, because we all use oil in some way."

    ...yes, but some of us recognise this and have already started to do something about it. Governments lobbies by oil corporations around the world actually make it more difficult to wean yourself off the black stuff. For example we could all have had electric cars supplied to us for free....except our leaders thought it would be a better idea to fight 2 wars in foreign lands against fictional enemies.

    So you want to trace the 'fault line' - you will find mostly it comes back to Government. Sure there are many people who are obstinate in their oil dependency - but there are far more who would get off it in a second given the chance.

    Government is supposed to give us collective direction on the issues that matter - and no Government has done this since I've been alive. This is possibly because in order to get to Government you have to follow self interest - and self interested people are not too fussed about the common good.

    So you may blame yourself - but I certainly don't blame myself for my oil usage.
    Demand isn't demand when there's only one product offered - it was only after the collapse of 2008 that car manufacturers suddenyl decided to start building electric cars en-mass - very few of which have made it to the showrooms.

  • Comment number 9.

    ...oh and here's another great example of corporate cost savings....

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/sep/08/ryanair-axe-unnecessary-co-pilots

    ...and don't forget this problem hasn't gone away (even if everyone has forgotten about it)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11229042

  • Comment number 10.

    Re dodgy chicken.
    I'd blame the supermarket because that's who my 'contract' is with. Equally they could claim a breach under their supply contract.

    The parallel falls down a bit with BP due to lack of a contract. Is it purely BP that owes the duty of care to the surrounding environment / businesses, or is it all parties?

  • Comment number 11.

    BP stands for blame placing.
    Good one, Robert!
    But BP didn't even do a good job at blame placing.
    BP says a "sequence of failures" that involved "multiple companies" led to the explosion and fire that killed 11 people & caused the massive oil spill.
    The report is 193 pages; it is posted on the BP website.
    BP says the accident arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.”
    Wow! And who was responsible for the
    - complex and interlinked series of
    - mechanical failures,
    - human judgments,
    - engineering design,
    - operational implementation and
    - team interfaces?
    Wasn't it BP's job to oversee its own operation, regardless of where parts came from or who did what?
    The internal report was prepared by BP's Head of Safety and Operations, Mark Bly. The Bly Report seems to be defensive, as though it will be the basis for BP legal defence in upcoming lawsuits. If this is the case, the Bly Report has so many holes, it could cause a psychological oil spill for defence attorneys.
    In the report, BP shifts blame to rig owner Transocean Ltd. and cement contractor Halliburton. In its report, BP says factors it "believes" led to the catastrophe including (but not exclusively):
    Cement & equipment at the bottom of the well failed, allowing upward flow of hydrocarbons, which the Transocean crew failed to regognize.
    Pressure tests were not validated by Transocean rig crew and BP staff.
    The rig's own ventilation system "probably" pumped gas to the engine room, a "possible" ignition source...
    As we all know, the blowout preventer (meant to stop the flow of oil and gas to the surface) was raised on Septemeber 4th.
    BP is adamant that it's doing its part to manage the environmental catastrophe. It talks about $8B to help handle the aftermath.
    Thankfully, the BP report will not be the final say. The US Government, including the Justice Department, Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, are also in the process of investigating.
    In reading the report, I was stunned by words such as "believes", "possible" and "probably". Wasn't part of the reason for the Bly Report to eliminate beliefs, possibilities and probabilities, and accordingly establish responsibilities?

  • Comment number 12.

    Mark @ 7

    Making who was to blame pay the cost wasn't relevant to the banking and finance disaster. The taxpayer (through his elected government) apparently accepted his failure and paid up....

  • Comment number 13.

    Whilst i agree that from this report that it can be seen there were many causes, IMO the poor design, testing,legislation and oversight of 1 piece of equipment could have prevented much of what has happened.

    The BOP, as a fail safe device , must in my humble opinion, be trusted to work in all circumstances, hindsight is a wonderful thing of course but to build a device, that is so large and complex, and for it then not to work is dreadful.

    One thing is abundantly clear, there are too many assumptions based on too little knowledge being made in this deep water drilling, and legislation has to be made robust,and enforced.

    Too many people have been lost and injured in the oil business, we all owe it to their families to ensure that it doesnt happen again.This disaster was avoidable if the fail safe had been of a design that worked.





  • Comment number 14.

    At 2:15pm on 08 Sep 2010, WolfiePeters wrote:

    "Mark @ 7

    Making who was to blame pay the cost wasn't relevant to the banking and finance disaster. "


    I agree, but we're not talking about the banking and finance disaster.

    We're talking about the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster.

  • Comment number 15.

    Hmmmm the usual bizarre BBC comparison, one slight issue though the big supermarket chain who sold me the dodgy curry will be regulated under the "sale of goods act" so I return the dodgy curry to them, regardless of who actually manufactured it. Unfortunately the last time I checked deep water drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are not yet regulated under the UK sale of goods act. Another case of the BBC comparing apples with apple computers, but heh who cares makes a good headline.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mr Peston makes a silly comparison. The purchase of a curry in the UK is covered by the sale and supply of goods act, which says, amongst other things, (see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1994/35:

    “(2)Where the seller sells goods in the course of a business, there is an implied term that the goods supplied under the contract are of satisfactory quality.
    (2A)For the purposes of this Act, goods are of satisfactory quality if they meet the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking account of any description of the goods, the price (if relevant) and all the other relevant circumstances.
    (2B)For the purposes of this Act, the quality of goods includes their state and condition and the following (among others) are in appropriate cases aspects of the quality of goods—
    (a)fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,
    (b)appearance and finish,
    (c)freedom from minor defects,
    (d)safety, and
    (e)durability.

    In other words, in the way of business, a seller is entirely responsible for the safety of what he/she sells to an individual. This responsibnility cannot be passed on to the orgaisation that supplied the goods to the seller (which is why you shouldn't be fobbed off by a sales assistant in a shop telling you that it's the manufacturer's responsibility, not the shop's when somethingh you bought is unfit for purpose). This has nothing at all to do with any moral or legal responsibility borne by any of the parties involved in the Deepwater Horizon accident.

  • Comment number 17.

    If I read a poorly constructed and utterly unpersuasive argument written by a BBC correspondent do I blame the BBC for employing this person or the person who wrote it?

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 11, BluesBerry wrote:
    “..... Thankfully, the BP report will not be the final say. The US Government, including the Justice Department, Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, are also in the process of investigating.”

    Were not those the same people who were watching, monitoring and regulating offshore activities in the Gulf of Mexico before the disaster?

    I don’t feel at all reassured.

    To Mark @ 14. I agree, but explain to me the difference. Moreover, it is a moral, if not a legal, precedent.

  • Comment number 19.

    There's a difference between buying a dodgy tikka masala from the supermarket and an oil rig that explodes and results in deaths and loss of livelihood for thousands.Yes, BP has to assume blame, and having read the report, they do just that.But let's be clear,Halliburton is not a supermarket supplier.They are the world's premier oil services company, and when an oil company contracts them to undertake a very complicated procedure,it's on the basis of decades of experience and a first-class reputation.Similarly, Transocean is a well-known offshore rig operator.So I'd reverse the argument - while BP must assume blame and responsibility,there needs to be no question that these suppliers hide behind it's skirts.And no matter what commentators and US legislators conclude from the report, a lot of oil companies will draw their own, better-informed conclusions.

  • Comment number 20.

    ... and who has historically demanded exploration for off-shore oil resouces? The American oil industry (for independence from fractious and vulnerable Middle Eastern sources); the American public (demanding unsustainably low fuel prices while driving unsustainably inefficient vehicles). Was it not Transocean who decided to switch-off the alarms in response to complaints from workers concerning interrupted rest periods? Does that not make it a criminal negligence case as people died as a result of the explosion that was not alarmed?

    Yes BP were the supposed managers of the rig, yes they should have been monitoring the malpractice of the subcontractor, and yes they have to date taken the vitriol and expense of dealing with the situation. But let us hope that the magmanimous Americans take due responsibility for their own involvement in the catastrophe and maybe learn that their insatiable demand for cheap energy at all costs puts others at risk.

    I know you have a Murdochian approach to conveying economic and financial niceties to us plebs, but the curry analogy needs series reconsideration, both in terms of its actual relevance and in terms of the differing scale of outcomes.

  • Comment number 21.

    You lot want to stop moaning and get paying your taxes!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11230325

    I laughed out loudly last night as I witnessed an MP, lecturing the public on how important it is for them to pay their mis-calculated taxes!

    Pot, kettle, black, calling - what could I possibly mean? CGT on second houses not counting as taxes minister??

    1 tax revolt coming up - I heard one man received a bill for nearly £10,000 - tax advisors advise appealing - ministers say no.

    Sadly I think I'm due a refund - so I cannot join this tax revolt. I am slightly annoyed as I pointed out this little mistake over 2 years ago and whilst the very helpful human being corrected the tax code - a computer changed it back!!

    ...no revolution? - don't make me laugh - revolution started ages ago and now it's increasing in speed.

    Can't wait until October 23rd - for that is when someone hits the 'fast forward button' in this revolution - that's if we make it to October without the coalition collapsing first.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ Mark @ Wolfie - Evidently we're talking not about the highly complex events that caused a significant environmental disaster and the deaths of several people, we're talking about a dodgy chicken curry. Both your points highlight the complexity of the situation yet to Robert it's seemingly as simple as a touch of food poisining.

    Personally I find his attempts to dumb this down to this extent pretty shocking and not really worthy of the BBC's Business editor.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am the only one who finds Pestons "dumb it down so the numpties can understand" style extremely patronising?

    To compare a chicken curry with a complex drilling operation is crass journalism.

    Stop treating us like idiots Peston

  • Comment number 25.

    Licence to drill was granted to BP, therefore ownership of the drilling operation is very clearly BP. How they distribute the balme at the next step is their affair.

    Given the uncertainity now created around such 'unknown/ uncertain risk' operations such as deep water drilling (and possibly lessons in other uncertain risky operations such as nuclear power) - it is now clear that license holders need to be made explicitly accountable for environmental risk created as a result of the operation run by them for which license is granted.

    Equally, governments need to make sure that the company (and any further companies to whom work is outsourced by these companies) have the financial ability to pay for any disasters. Exposure to such risks will provide a wonderful reason for the CEO to bring Risk up to hist able for regular review.

    This may result in exclusion of the small companies, which may not be a bad result - the financial equivalent of allowing a small hedge fund the ability to bring down the market. Such operations ought to be run by fully integrated companies - end to end, allowing no scope for the CEO to argue that someone else messed up.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    To WoW @ 8

    We still have a collective responsibility to regulate our industries, public or private and whatever the product. I feel that includes producing stuff that we as individuals might not want.

    The northern European countries have, partly through very painful experience, established what seem to be good, though never perfect, safety regimes for offshore oil and gas activity. They are based on working in a very risk conscious way to well tested practices and, especially when you go outside those practices, well studied calculations of the probabilities of failure. In spite of their longer history and greater experience of offshore oil and gas, the latter point has not been adopted in the US. I believe that if a more European approach had been in place, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    You may say that BP were free to work as they would in Europe. To some extent that’s true. But there are also a lot of reasons why that would be difficult in the US.

  • Comment number 28.

    Honestly, what dreadful journalism.

    If someone was poisoned by a dodgy chicken curry then wouldn't you expect the supermarket to investigate? BP have unequivocally taken responsibility but that doesn't mean they should be expected to accept all the blame.

    They appear to be doing everything possible to rectify the situation which includes making sure it doesn't happen again. Only by analysing where the issues arose from can they hope to reduce future risks.

  • Comment number 29.

    Blame, since it is down to technical let-down by different parties should be spread. This was without doubt an American witch-hunt on a massive scale. Oil is the substance of power, America wants power.

  • Comment number 30.

    Eight poorly written paragraphs hardly constitutes an accident report. Of course they're going to point the finger at someone else. It is in their financial interest to do so. The captain is responsible for the ship. Perhaps when an independent investigation into the conduct of BP and it's sub-contractors is completed we'll know what really happened. And perhaps the BBC will treat that report with the respect that it deserves.

  • Comment number 31.

    #15 paulienash is spot on. The law in the UK often makes a distinction between transactions where one party is a layman (as a customer in a shop) and B2B contracts. Buy a car from a motor trader and he has statutory obligations which do not apply when one private person buys a car from another.

    The oil rig disaster arose from a chain of events with failures by all the parties involved. Each such dereliction, had it not occurred, might have avoided the explosion. What will surely happen is that there will be a judicial apportionment of blame and liability. Since its people were on the rig, it might be found that BP should have monitored all that went on there. By contrast, cementing a plug 1 mile below the surface is hardly something that BP could be expected to monitor. BP had every right to assume that Halliburton would perform properly. As for the BOP, which passed through so many different hands... Maybe BP should have checked it out. Can we smell "familiarity breeds contempt" ?

  • Comment number 32.

    I disagree with Robert's angle on this, given the particualr circumstances of this case. To my understanding, Halliburton and TransOcean have to date not contributed at all to the consequential costs of the spill. In those circumstances, it is essential to ascertain who was responsible and in what share. BP is not a charity.

  • Comment number 33.

    WOTW #8

    .. a Damascus moment - those in charge are the last people you would want taking control. Links between politicians and lobbyists/financial backers; interests groups setting policy; political progression that ensures the status quo (researcher - advisor - preferred candidate imposed on constituancy - elected MP in safe seat - party acolyte to flavour of the moment - Tony Blair look-a-like contest winner).

    Dwight Eisenhower (in 1960) warned that politics was becoming too linked to vested interests - that the military had become a bed-fellow with the arms industries - that Capitol Hill was being run by individuals who owed more to their backers (financial) than their electorate. Michael Portillo is on record (The Politics Show) as saying it is every MP's aim, and duty to try, to become Prime Minister - in my innocence I thought it was to represent the constituents they represent. Again, a culture of personal above social gain is setting agendas for national governance.

    Back in the good old days of Athenian democracy (the cradle of democracy) every citizen was liable for a term of responsibility in the forum (parliament), during which time they would take turns at being the leader for a day. The rational being that only those things that were truely wanted by the public would be enacted; that vested interest would be out-weighed collective agreement. It comes with long term involvement; guaranteed periods of participation that coirruption and self-interest become paramount.

    But, as usual I digress, nothing of this kind can possibly happen in a multinational corporation where the governance is driven by a desire to provide service for customers, and returns for investors. The only bright side is that Thatcher sold-off the British taxpayers' involvement 30 years ago, otherwise we would be picking up the bill as we did with the banks. Phew, a close shave there!

  • Comment number 34.

    i'm not really sure that robert peston is saying that curries and oil rigs are the same thing at all - it is merely a useful analogy by which to start a discussion.

  • Comment number 35.

    This basically tells us who to sue. But whereas the shrimpers can sue BP, the shrimps can't. Which is why they - and the rest of the marine environment - need much tighter regulation of deep water drilling (assuming there is any regulation at all at the moment!) to minimise the risk of this happening again.

    But somehow I just have a feeling that BP won't be calling for tougher environmental regulation of the oil industry - which is of course the real answer.

  • Comment number 36.

    Don't blame Robert for the curry analogy - he's just trying to dumb it down for the Capitalists.

    I mean they still don't understand why their system is doomed, and at the moment it's never been so obvious.

    At this rate all Roberts articles will be written in telly-tubby language in order to make the simplest Capitalist understand it.

    Those who work outside of finance won't have this problem as understanding things you're not familiar with is a simple task - unlike financial experts and economists who are still wondering why their theories are all going wrong after they chose to ignore surplus value which leads to crisis within Capitalism.

    ...but they like to blame Governments, the borrowers, foreign labour, the tide, the wind, god, luck, the stars, the moon, dead presidents, the wolf, the sheep, the dog and the duck rather than face the awful truth that they have been incompetent to the extreme in their unfounded belifes that a contradictory system can be 'managed'.

  • Comment number 37.

    Coming up with alternative meanings of BP is tiresome.

    With the political rhetoric dying down and the publication of this report I hope we can start to learn what went wrong and importantly to improve processes in the future.

    Clearly it is not just BP that will watch their subcontractors more closely. You can bet that directives are flying round every other oil company telling employees to do the same.

    BP's taking its eye off the ball was tragically exposed but other companies may just have been lucky they weren't the first.

  • Comment number 38.

    Initially I would have thought that BP have taken responsibility - what else do you want them to do?

    Wrt to the Supermarket analogue then the Supermarket would have an agreement to pass on the consequential damages to the supplier (as with my wife's tooth; broken in a sandwich) - I expect BP will have these agreements and be asking their sub-contractors for their contribution. Is this wrong?

    I am impressed that you feel able to determine that BP didn't exercise 'sufficient oversight'; I would have thought that this would be a difficult judgement to make. These subcontractors sell their services based upon their industry experience and capability. They are highly reputable industry players - what level do think was necessary and how does this fit with the current industry norms?

  • Comment number 39.

    Your analogy about the supermarket and the dodgy meal is way off the mark. A better analogy might be buying a car from a garage and then the steering rack shears due to defective manufacturing techniques. You couldn't really hold the garage rather than the manufacturer responsible. And it would be pointless to do so - the garage is in no position to check the quality of the metal specified in every component of the cars it sells.

    I don't know how much you know about oil exploration or maritime chartering, but the Deepwater Horizon was Transocean's vessel. Most of those on the rig were Transocean's crew. Running the rig safely was their responsibility primarily. BP got hammered because it was British and Transocean is American with lots of American employees. As usual you seem to be keener to write what you think people want to hear, a desire conditioned by politicians, rather than deal with the complexity of the truth and challenge pre-conceptions.

    Disappointing.

  • Comment number 40.

    I can only agree that a comparison with a curry seems ridiculously facile. I look forward to discovering what did go wrong with the Blow-out Preventer (Haliburton's responsibility surely?) and in general with the running of the rig (TransOcean). BP have taken this on the chin. I'm sure that for many operators it's been a case of 'There but for the grace of God...' Highly complex operations such as these which go wrong, as inevitably they will from time to time, take time to analyse. There should have been a contingency Plan B, but nobody seems to have had one of those for these circumstances.

  • Comment number 41.

    It does get complicated.

    If I get in a licensed taxi that has dodgy brakes and it runs somebody down am I liable? Morally or legally?

    probably not. Although both the taxi driver and the licensing body should be.

    If I have a chauffeur who is paid to maintain my car but takes it round to his mates for services and keeps the difference am I liable in an accident?

    Legally yes, morally no.

    If I have a chauffeur who thinks its better to maintain my car himself thus saving me moneybut misreads the tyre pressures am I liable in an accident?

    Legally yes and probably morally yes (I should have made sure he was competant to do the service).

    In this case BP are claiming we have possible chauffeur error, in a badly maintained leased car. I'd guess all 3 would be legally and morally in the frame. If I had ordered the driver to drive over the speed limit and told the lease holder I didn't want a safety check every 6 months it would still be everybodies responsibility.

    Not that much of this matters BP has got the brass and it was a damn good way to provide a stimulus to the US economy without costing the US government anything.

  • Comment number 42.

    Come on Robert, surely know how much of a ddgy argument that is. One is a consumer to business transaction, and the other a business to business transaction. Therefore the legislative protection and liabilities etc are completely different.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    Here's the real issue..

    In the middle 80s when the suits with the MBAs turned up at BP they changed the relationship between the company and its contractors and suppliers by essentially shifting responsibility for pretty much everything onto the contractors including would you believe most of the R&D it used to do. It did all this without of course paying for it taking the view that if contractors wanted BP's work then they'd live with these new conditions.

    Of course one of the outcomes of this was that the relationships between BP and its contractors got worse. By effectively refusing to share risk but acting almost as it were an investment bank BP did itself a huge amount of damage. It's arrogance and disdainful attitude to its suppliers and contractors was always going to lead to something like this happening.

    What I hope now is that it will cause BP to take a hard look at how it runs its business and if it doesn't then its shareholder force it to.

  • Comment number 45.

    This is an accident report. I don't know what that means to Mr Peston but to those of us in technical industries it means a report on everything that went wrong, it is not an apportioning of blame, it is a report on what happened.
    It has to investigate everyone, if an item failed it will say so; if procedures were not followed, it will say so; if new procedures could have prevented the incident, it will say so.
    There will be many court cases which will be very largely about pinning blame, BP will be sued by many people, quite rightly, it was their name on the project, and part of what they get paid for is to take the blame. BP will in their turn sue many other people, quite rightly if any equipment was inadequate, or if employees of any other company were negligent. Blame is not an inelastic quantity, if it proves that some supplied safety equipment failed BP will still be to blame, but the supplier of that equipment may be to blame too. It is surely the job of your more senior journalists in their writings to explain things in detail, not to try to dumb things down to a tabloid headline level.
    This accident was complex, it is probable that many people could have prevented it had they acted differently, this report must in part be about preventing the next disaster. PLEASE Mr Peston, report on it properly, do not let BP off the hook, that would be grossly irresponsible, just as grossly irresponsible as letting all the others off it too.

  • Comment number 46.

    Think your comments on BP are a bit harsh. Yes you would expect a supermarket to take the blame, but they in turn would seek compensation and to place blame on the supplier. With a dodgy curry you would not expect to see the full report published on national news. With an oil spill you would, and for the report to be accurate (which is what we want) all mistakes have to be mentioned (blaming sub-contractors etc.) although BP must take overall responsibility as they decide who to hire based on costs and safety records.

    The one thing we can say for sure is as we dig deeper and deeper for oil mistakes get increasingly likely. Precautions will be put in place, but 8 key mistakes were made here, the process is to complicated. We need to rid our dependence for multiple reasons on oil. Greenhouse gas, oil spills, smog(asthma etc.) and to avoid unnecccessary wars and dodgy deals

  • Comment number 47.

    Lets not forget that damages will be awarded in the US and so for BP to accept any blame is very unusual, and represents huge financial liability.

    How BP will get a fair civil trial is unclear to me. The President and his administration already declared BP guilty. BP was the perfect target; big oil, drilling offshore, and a foreign company to. Lets not forget the US would be happy to see BP go down, at the benefit of US companies. The tool of this is to bleed BP of money through the escrow fund and other lawsuits. Regardless of your feelings on oil and energy and the environment, a corporation deserves a fair hearing. How will they get that?

    I agree BP needs to be held accountable to fix the environmental issues it caused. This disaster has done untold damage to the Gulf. However, Britain needs a strong BP and BP needs backing of a Prime Minister to get through this without being bled dry by interests that will just con BP out of more money. Otherwise, the UK will have no oil producer of its own. You think Exxon will feel sorry for us?

  • Comment number 48.

    So if what Robert is saying is true regarding the contractor relationship, Transocean and Haliburton could deliberately cut corners and costs knowing that any disaster would rebound on the party that contracted them leaving them free to cut corners and costs ad infinitum wiht no accountability.

    The pressure being on Transocean and Haliburton to cut as many corners as possible to keep profit margins high and the pressure on the party that contracted them for all quality control procedures.

    This doesn't sound like any basis for doing business and with something as dangerous as oil drilling the contractor relationship is one that will be under the most scrutiny

  • Comment number 49.

    Robert, I am afraid that your analysis is naive and unhelpful. The purpose of accident investigation is to prevent more accidents not to assign blame. Assigning blame merely produces scapegoats and discourages improvements in safety.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    The BP report I suggest analyses the process and identifies weaknesses and failures in the control environment including those that were outsourced.

    BP has to acknowledge their failure in oversight but also identify what went wrong at contractual and operational levels. People risk is high on the list of control failures and lessons must be learned from this disaster and information shared.

    As for the legal risk that would I suggest be a totally different matter that will be fought out in the US law courts. BP will pay claims but only the lawyers profit when this comes to court adding a few more blogs to the business editors workload...

  • Comment number 52.

    33. At 3:32pm on 08 Sep 2010, honestgeraldinho wrote:
    ....preferred candidate imposed on constituancy - elected MP in safe seat - party acolyte to flavour of the moment...
    -----------------------------------
    Regardless of the party represented, I feel that my MP is as good as any for the seat having been born, schooled and still living in the constituency. We should insist on more of this.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    "This is a self-serving report that attempts to conceal the critical factor that set the stage for the Macondo incident: BP's fatally flawed well design. In both its design and construction, BP made a series of cost-saving decisions that increased risk - in some cases, severely."


    Now how much safety budget did BP slash?
    I do hope Mr Cable, the no-longer respected figure of the Lib Dems is paying attention as he slashes and burns his way through the science and engineering community!

  • Comment number 55.

    Supermarkets & Curries, wow this really is taking dumbing down to the nth degreee.
    Do you have any idea how the oil industry works Mr Peston?

  • Comment number 56.

    # 21. At 3:00pm on 08 Sep 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    "You lot want to stop moaning and get paying your taxes!"

    I'll bang it all on me credit card and worry about it later.

    "1 tax revolt coming up......."

    Gerald Celente has been forecasting a tax revolt for ages now.


  • Comment number 57.

    Well, to take your analogy further, Robert...you might blame the supermarket, but when you sued for the time you were off work ill, the manufacturer would end up footing (much of) the bill!

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    I don't understand why this report comes as any surprise, it has been stark staringly obvious, except to too many simplistic journalists, that Transocean were deeply implicated in the original problem leading to the spillage. BP have throughout done the decent thing in accepting responsibility for the CLEAN UP - it never accepted sole responsibility for the CAUSE of the spillage. Journalists are not renowned for attention to detail. Pestons example of a supermarket curry is only partly true - and over simple. If Peston hired a car from a major international hire car company , (like Avis or Hertz eg), and drove it into a bus queue causing loss of life and damage, it would be him, via his insurers, who would have to take the immediate flak. However, when it was found that the company servicing the hired car had been negligent, resulting in the Hirer supplying a vehicle with defective brakes, the Insurance company (and driver) would no doubt go chasing both the Hire car company and the servicing contractor - as the PRIMARY cause of the accident. It is of course convenient for the US Administration to blame a so apparently 'British' company, rather than admitting that a major US company (the largest international offshore drilling company in the World)had supplied and serviced the rig.

  • Comment number 61.

    Nick
    You could easily kill more people with a dodgy chicken curry made by a supermarket supplier than were killed when the Deepwater Rig exploded.

  • Comment number 62.

    If I suffer as a result of dodgy food from a supermarket I might as a consumenr look to the supermarket to compensate me. But if the incident was bad enough (e.g. lots of people affected) I would also expect the authorities to take action against the supplier to the supermarket. So no differenet to BP saying we are responsible, but others to blame as well.

  • Comment number 63.

    27. At 3:18pm on 08 Sep 2010, WolfiePeters wrote:

    "We still have a collective responsibility to regulate our industries, public or private and whatever the product. I feel that includes producing stuff that we as individuals might not want."

    Do we? - why should we (the taxpayer) fund the regulation of private enterprise?
    Surely it would be more efficient to just run them in the public interest - that way we don't have to fork out for a regulator because free markets don't work.

    I mean it's rife in all sectors - oil is no different. They 'bend' the rules to breaking point, invest heavily in lawyers and legal defence simply to circumvent the regulation we put in.

    regulation simply breeds the need for more regulation.

    I'm sorry I don't have the answer on this one, but I am certain it's not efficient for us to have private enterprise requiring constant policing by public bodies (which then is returned back as a complaint about 'bloated public sector')

    on top of that regulation gives private enterprise the excuse of moaning about 'uncompetitiveness caused by tight regulation' - and then the perfect excuse to relocate to somewhere more 'cowboy'.

    It means to make it work, regulation has to be universal and worldwide (slim chance considering we can't even agree on more fundamental things) - or we simply manage it ourselve - i.s. total nationalisation.

    I cannot see another choice really - the free market is bunkum and the banks have proven it. In other industries it's not so noticeable but it's still going on to one degree or another.

    I am open to suggestions on this one as I cannot see past my current view on it.

  • Comment number 64.

    Typical scandal mongering we have come to get use to from Mr Peston. It is unbelievable that so far the companies who have actually made mistakes have been out of the spot light.
    Of course mistakes were made by BP but each of the companies mentioned are the ones who should really be focused on or are they immune because they are American??
    Of course it fits the mood but it would be nice if for once you would not think of your own ego and give a normal comment.

  • Comment number 65.

    The curry example is totally out of proportion compared to the BP case. If a supermarket gets complaints about 5 dodgy £3 curries, it might cost them £50 to make the customers happy - no real harm done. The cost to BP of simply fixing the problem has been billions, and the future cost is estimated to be many billions more in clean up and compensation. Then factor in the damage alone which the US press has done to it's reputation, and the affect that this will have upon future profits. It makes the curry example redundant.

    I work for a house builder, and pretty much all of our work is subcontracted out. Specifications are clearly laid out, and supervised throughout build, the only way to ensure EVERYTHING is done to specification is to do it yourself, which defeats the object of subcontracting.

    A recent example - a bricklaying subcontractor used mortar mixes inconsistent with specifications on a number of plots. As a consequence these plots have to be demolished and re-built, at a large cost. We are taking responsibility for the work that needs to be done, however the cost is being re-billed to the bricklaying subcontractor. We have taken the hit to our reputation as the customers will surely never buy our product again, however the cost has rightly been passed onto the subcontractor whose error it was.

    By no means am I saying that BP was not at fault, or that they followed the procedure which the industry would describe as "best practice". There are things which BP have acknowledged error with, and they are working to put this right, however it was not solely BP that were generating profits from this, and potentially generating greater profits through not following policy correctly.

    Both Halliburton and Transocean generated profit from this operation, and both have (according to BP) not followed policy correctly. Shouldn't at least a portion of the cost also be attributable to the other companies who failed to follow procedure?

  • Comment number 66.

    Lots of discussion as to the Sale of Goods Act. The good thing about that piece of legislation is that it defines where the contractural liability rests within the chain of supply. Even now there are many traders trying to fob their customers off by sending them to the distributor or the manufacturer.

    `Not me, guv!' seems to be a way of life for some folk.

    Transocean's response to the report has been too quick and too confrontational. They clearly have briefed their learned friends and settled down into the corporate bunker.

    Even before the explosion and the oil spill it has become quite evident to me that there is a poor culture of responsibility in the oil industry. This should be shaming for the management as best practise in such potentially volatile conditions should be the sole standard. Furthermore since deep water drilling is a relatively recent development surely the standard practise of trying to remove cost by reducing material and equipment employed is just downright foolish.

    What this entire business does prove is my old adage: if it starts going wrong it will continue going wrong unless you stop and start again. This is also known as the Denis Healey Theory of Holes: namely, when in one stop digging.

    I think we will see them all in court. Handbags at dawn!

  • Comment number 67.

    I am more comfortable deriding parasitic bankers for outright theft.

    When it comes to oil however surely we are hypocrites if we try and blame the death of people solely on the institution if we are more than happy to buy their product. We have to accept a measure of personal responsibilty but at the same time do everything in our power, through our legislators, to ensure the safety of workers.

  • Comment number 68.

    Robert you seem to have picked the wrong analogy, I can't blame you as I assume you are a reporter and do not have any practical experience in the real world of engineering / science related cockups.
    There are usually a string of them, that in themselves alone may not cause a problem but with "frail man" involved we seem to be able to string them together to cause a major disaster.
    It will be back to the drawing board / computer then we await the next one??

  • Comment number 69.

    33. At 3:32pm on 08 Sep 2010, honestgeraldinho

    So we should ressurect Athenian democracy? - I certtainly couldn't see it being any worse.

    How about the lottery is altered so the winner actually becomes prime minister for a week where you can table any auggested law - and only those laws tabled which get through 52 consecutive prime ministers get enacted.

    Law of probability says you will end up with a reasonable statute book - unlike today's statute book which is filled with tripe that we seriously don't need.

    I can guarantee that the removal of previous banking legislation would not have made it through 52 prime ministers.

    What do I know though - I'm just a Spartan.

  • Comment number 70.

    Amazing the ignorance of so many British posters here. There is no doubting that BP is primarily to blame here for 2 reasons:

    BP decided not to drill fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem.

    BP skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe, a key buffer against gas, despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from Halliburton.

    I understand that's it's in the British DNA to rally 'round the flag when one of your nationals (or national companies) gets into trouble abroad. I get it. But when you say things like "it's America's fault for being energy hogs" and you haven't read about the actual behavior of BP then you just sound stupid beyond belief.

  • Comment number 71.

    35. At 3:35pm on 08 Sep 2010, Cloud-Cuckoo wrote:
    This basically tells us who to sue. But whereas the shrimpers can sue BP, the shrimps can't. Which is why they - and the rest of the marine environment - need much tighter regulation of deep water drilling (assuming there is any regulation at all at the moment!) to minimise the risk of this happening again.


    The Latin Americans are pushing for a Crime against Earth, much like crimes against humanity only one that will be implemented eg. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=19212



  • Comment number 72.

    If i ate Supermarket food and became ill and subsequently sued the company i would expect them to pay out but i would also expect them to have binding contracts with their suppliers which may,if breached, enable the supermarket to seek reimbursement from the offending supplier.
    Drilling for oil in 5000ft of water is altogether more complex and there maybe a few people in the World who can understand complex issues, as you obviously do, so perhaps the blame should fall on all those companies involved and the main societies which pressure them into such hazardous activity or do we all do as you say and dump the whole thing on BP with all the consequences that holds for us all. I guess you have to write something eh?

  • Comment number 73.

    I think what this disaster has taught us all - judging by the variety of comments) is that outsourcing has 1 real benefit.

    That is to cloud responsibility for all parties involved - which conveniently means that anyone who is awaiting compensation will have to wait a long time while the parties fight it out.

    Maybe this was the intention all along - and there is a real benefit to outsourcing for the parent company.

    I'd hang the lot of them personally - it's because of all the entire industries refusal to move away from fossil fuels - and to prevent us from doing so - why we're digging in such dangerous places in the first place.

    I haven't forgot in the 70's and 80's when oil giants bought up the first electric car companies simply to shelve them and prevent any advancement - for it would impact their profits if alternative energies took off.

    Yet another example of markets failing thanks to collusion between multinational corporations. They will put profits before the progression of mankind every single time.

  • Comment number 74.

    Robert,

    This 'self-assessment' highlights the mechanics of big business very well.

    BP are clearly preparing for litigation, not absolution. But this also reveals a much deeper failing in the economic world as we know it. I'll come back to that in a moment.

    Firstly, BPs self-assessment is a magnificent example of how free markets do not work.

    How?

    If we viewed this in terms of free market ideology, then we would expect - as mentioned - that BP carry the can for all failings.

    Instead, BP attempt to part with their responsibility via a service framework layercake, blaming other parties for failings. Which the legally minded will now receive handsome dividends to argue up to the nth degree.

    But back to this point, how does the market interpret this in language it understands? Yes, share prices will drop to reflect risk - but *not* responsibility - and *not* tangibles. And presumably contracts will be hard to come by for Halliburton and Transocean until the matter is cleared. BP merely need to play the long game, and force the hand of the smaller players, and manage the situation forward.

    Definitely not in keeping with free market ethos - certainly where are the tangibles?

    So, let's take the other extreme - and assume that free market ideology were (somehow) inflicted fully onto BP. In other words, BP were forced to shoulder all responsibility by virtue of the market throwing the shopping trolley at it, burdening BP with the weight of its actions, and ultimately allowing it to fail. What would happen next?

    Two notable outcomes in fact:
    - BP would cease - and be carcassed out and reformed as something else
    - And most importantly - the John Q Taxpayer becomes a creditor - of their own pension!

    Thus we have a second problem - we want free market ethos, but cannot (or will not) execute, based on the consequences of that action.

    In short - BP are very much untouchable. Bit like our banks of recent times.

    It's a shame many capitalist supporters are too short sighted (or perhaps merely greedy?) to really understand this point.

    Last of all, and perhaps most importantly, doesn't this dilemma highlight a rather serious flaw in UK plc?

    If businesses such as BP are too big to fail, then what happens when times get hard in a service-based economy?

    Or put in another way - what will happen to smaller businesses when big (too big to fail?) businesses substitute their responsibility with SLA's?

    The next chapter between Halliburton / Transocean and BP will be watched rather closely...

    --

  • Comment number 75.

    Always dissappointing to see quality UK journalist's stooping to feeble US style reporting by analogy. At least it wasn't the favoured sporting variety of most US scribes "dropped balls" "home runs" etc..but curries? How strange.
    Nevertheless worth pointing out if this is the road we are going down that it was BP who appear to have been sold a dodgy curry albeit they had there own foodtaster in the restaurant at the time....should absolve owner/operator I would think.

    Lesson for next time...play the Exxon way - accept maximum legal liability ($75 Million in this case I think) I tell Mr Obama you'll see him in court.

  • Comment number 76.

    Surely the curry is governed by the Consumer Protection Act!!!!!! This says that if it is defective the retailer is liable, but you can also sue the supplier/manufacturer.

    However, the comparison with a major disaster is clearly daft.

    I do know one thing. This ecological calamity will make a lot of money for some smart lawyers.

  • Comment number 77.

    56. At 4:40pm on 08 Sep 2010, NorthSeaHalibut

    Tax revolt?
    They just slap VAT on fresh air, further suffocating the poor!

  • Comment number 78.

    Thank goodness we live in a capitalist society where whoever has suffered here can be recompensed, mistakes learnt and those responsible brought to account.

    Even the most dim socialist will be aware of the awful history of industrial accidents in socialist states such as the old USSR (which collapsed, as all socialist systems do) and China (which mercifully is at last embracing capitalism). In those state run countries, terrible accidents were denied and covered up, those who suffered told to keep their mouths shut and put up with things and if improvements in safety were costly, they just were never implemented.

    And it's a sign of the strength of capitalism that BP has survived and its share price is recovering (something which anyone with a private pension will be relieved about - after all you can't rely on the pitiful state pension).

    Accidents do happen, whatever the political hue of the nation concerned but if you're lucky, they happen in an open, economically liberal society.

    I guess the only places where such things never happen is in the wistful socialist fantasies created by idealistic dreamers.

    Dream on, eh!

  • Comment number 79.

    What an incredibly shallow and uninformed piece on a major event.

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm quite surprised no-one has mentioned the silicon contaminated fuel that Tesco sold about 4 years ago; in my experience they paid for all subsequent work required to correct the damaged parts and fully refunded the cost of the original defective fuel. Now how they recovered their costs, regardlessly of how publicly they accepted the blame, is another story.

  • Comment number 81.

    63. At 5:01pm on 08 Sep 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    regulation simply breeds the need for more regulation.


    Wouldn't requiring corporations to act in the interests of the 'stakeholders' rather than the shareholders reduce much of the need for infinite regulation? Just change corporate/organisation law so they operate in the interests of employees and the local community as their primary responsibility.

    Using a weak design isn't in the interests of the local fishermen, not using a remote shutdown device isn't in the interests of the local community/workers etc.



  • Comment number 82.

    65. At 5:06pm on 08 Sep 2010, ArsenalUK wrote:
    The curry example is totally out of proportion compared to the BP case. If a supermarket gets complaints about 5 dodgy £3 curries, it might cost them £50


    In the US I think they have to pay the health care bill too. Now that is a lot more than £50 for each of the victims.

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    There's a certain sad ghoulishness about some of the comments on here, an air of schadenfreude. It comes across as a desperate, rather pathetic attempt to extrapolate an industrial accident into it being proof that the capitalist system is doomed.

    Was it doomed by Piper Alpha? By the Exxon Valdez? Of course not. Nor is it threatened by this.

  • Comment number 85.

    The world is about to witness the wonder that is the US judicial system first hand. The winners will, of course, be the attorneys - whilst truth and justice will be mere bystanders - the only question remaining is who, amongst the protagonists, will still be capable of drawing breath.

  • Comment number 86.

    Wind your neck in Robert - this is a multi billion dollar claim they are looking at, of course they are going to try and spread the blame around. And do you know how an oil rig actually functions? There are numerous companies and contractors involved, the chances are that it wasn't simply the fault of BP.

  • Comment number 87.

    Not sure why were applying the "sale of goods act". This is a B2B senario where in each case their would be contractural obligation between all of BP sub-contractors which simply does not exist buying groceries.
    I still maintain that ALL parties are responsible as said elswhere all were profiting from the exploration & extraction of the oil and in the instances when we have been a sub-contractor to the BBC for instance they certainly add contractural responsibility & liability even though they are the prime contractor and any tort law will focus on this especially the families who lost loved ones.
    Transocean are definately being coached by their legal team but if US legislators are fair and transparent they MUST include ALL parties involved other wise no lessons will be learned and sub-contractors will become a dying breed.

  • Comment number 88.

    69. At 5:21pm on 08 Sep 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:

    How about the lottery is altered so the winner actually becomes prime minister for a week where you can table any auggested law - and only those laws tabled which get through 52 consecutive prime ministers get enacted.


    And imagine the fun you could have when no one wins it for a few weeks and you, as the last winner, are left holding the keys to Downing Street...

  • Comment number 89.

    To WoW @63 concerning the ‘regulator’

    Public or private, banks or oil, we still need a regulator. And the regulator must be as independent as possible of the regulated. It’s just a bit more difficult to make two state owned bodies independent. It’s not just a matter of line of ownership or control; it’s also a matter of interests and objectives. Even ensuring that a state operated regulator has interests that are independent of private corporations requires care. You may recall that after the Cullen reports (Piper Alpha) regulation of the UK offshore industry was moved entirely from the Dept. of Energy to the HSE, from an organisation with the objective of maximising production to an organisation with no interest in maximising production.

    And once you have a good regulator, then you can start thinking about how you achieve a good safety regime.

  • Comment number 90.

    THe journalists have usually a different view point towards oil exploration activities. To know the activities you have to become one. Otherwise you will be spoonfed a totally different view. I am a rig worker ( Engineer). I find BP's report completely valid. The fact is , it is a multimillion dollar activity and mistakes can not be afforded, especially if it results in huge financial losses. Here BP suffered huge financial losss due to Transocean's rig management failure and oversight. Probably BP's own rig management failed to find and act on the former's failure. I do not think BP should be cast away from making it's own findings and reporting the same. Almost all rig worker in my facility think BOP should have worked.

  • Comment number 91.

    I really think the analogy with a bad chicken massala meal bought from a supermarket is as faulty as the meal must have been! BP's situation in the disaster was not the same as a supermarket's selling product to a consumer which has to be fit for consumption etc etc. BP has every right to blame anyone that was working for them, or with them on this venture, who failed in some way to meet safety standards or carry out contractual obligations. I can see no common ground with supplying bad food to consumers.
    I rather think that Peston, in his haste, is playing to an under informed audience who are expecting to be wound up in a rather simple fashion. Tabloid journalism I'm afraid and nothing constructive added to what we must all remember was a disaster mainly for those killed and injured.

  • Comment number 92.

    Such simplistic analogies are incredibly misleading and dangerous. Given the power of the media (and leading journalists in particular) to shape public perceptions they can and do damage reputations with their failure to properly and fully understand situations. To liken the BP Macondo spill to a supermarket curry is so facile as to beggar belief.

    The international oil industry is massive, highly complex and works at the cutting edge of technology that is often deployed in extreme environments. In order to do this it has become highly stratified in terms of the engineering and service expertise vested in 'who does what'.

    The international oil industry operates only because there are hundreds of contractors who have become leaders in particular areas of technology and service provision. If you investigate any single Exploration or Production operation anywhere in the world with any oil major you will see layer after layer of 'expert contractors' working 'under contract' to the leading oil company. Rig operators; drillers; down hole tool companies; mud companies; subsea specialists; platform engineers; maintenance companies; etc. etc. etc.

    It is also critical to understand the legal contracting environment. Not only is each contractor highly technical and highly specialised often their contracts are of a type euphemistically called 'Lump Sum, All Risk' agreements. They are often applied to Engineer, Procure and Construct (EPC) contracts that hand all these key and critical elements over to the contractor. Such Agreements 'legally' give them considerable control over their part of the operation to allow them to manage their high levels of contracted risk – for which there is a very substantial margin in the markets ‘good times’. Such contractors, while expert in their technological field also tend to be highly expert in applying the terms of their contracts rigorously.

    In such a technological stratified industry where the custom and practice is to hand significant amounts of control to the expert contractors the customer, (the oil company), not only has a right to expect his contractors to be competent and diligent but the Agreements require it.

    Therefore when there is an incident, especially one on this scale, that indisputably involves a number of critical parties, it is entirely normal for the legal Agreements to come into play in major way. In fact the US Administration absolutely ensured this would go ‘legal’ in the very earliest days by seeking fault and blame and stating the full force of the law would be brought to bear – long before the true cause were known. Indeed, BP would be labelled daft at best and commercially incompetent at worst, given the highly litigious US environment, if it just rolled over and accepted full and total responsibility without first exploring all avenues to see if any of its legally contracted ‘experts’ had any culpability.

    Those who also label BP as 'Blame Placers' show no understanding at all for highly aggressive and often highly litigious modern world of commerce when billions of dollars, tens of thousands of jobs and national interests are at stake. In such an environment putting your hand up for someone else's mistake opens you up to company terminating lawsuits. In this regard American companies lead the world in the speed at which they resort to law and the aggressiveness with which they pursue it.

    Remember Piper Alpha in 1988 where 167 people died? Flames and oil spewed forth for days. The platform was owned by a US oil major and if memory serves me correctly only six of the platforms total complement were employees of the oil company. The rest were contractors. The oil company sought to bring 150 legal actions against 26 contractors in the aftermath of the event. I don’t remember the UK Government instigating a witch hunt and baying for blood!

    And finally, what no one seems to be remarking on, is the fact that the very same US oil majors who were so quick to castigate BP suddenly started up a new entity with a $1billion of joint funding in order to put in place an emergency response system to any future such disasters. So what did they have in place before the event that enabled them to be so ‘Holier than Thou’?

    It would be good to see some journalistic rigour in some of this reporting.
    EM

  • Comment number 93.

    all this back and forth about a cuury, all the complaints are Scotch mist!

    It's what the media bandits do, or even better those, who gambled on a stock market pension do for free!

    Scotch mist...won't save the prawns or the fishermen, won't hide the long-term illnesses...

  • Comment number 94.

    I just wondered what happened to the B.P. QA department,surely there was an inspector on the job,what did his/her report say about the installation of the the concrete cap,and also if the cap was suitable for the job.If there was no inspector present & therefore no report, the ball lies firmly in BP's court

  • Comment number 95.

    Our greed for oil is inevitably going to lead to more and more environmental disasters.

    BP has handled the aftermath of this disaster honourably and has of course taken responsibility for what has happened. The report has been promptly produced.What else do the public expect to do?

    Would that more companies behaved as well as this when dealing with such accidents resulting from their activities.

  • Comment number 96.

    81. At 5:56pm on 08 Sep 2010, copperDolomite wrote:

    63. At 5:01pm on 08 Sep 2010, writingsonthewall wrote:
    regulation simply breeds the need for more regulation.

    Wouldn't requiring corporations to act in the interests of the 'stakeholders' rather than the shareholders reduce much of the need for infinite regulation? Just change corporate/organisation law so they operate in the interests of employees and the local community as their primary responsibility.

    Using a weak design isn't in the interests of the local fishermen, not using a remote shutdown device isn't in the interests of the local community/workers etc.

    ========================

    In UK companies are already obliged to take wider stakeholders (including employees and environment) into account although primary duty is still to shareholders. Change was made in Companies Act 2006 which was a classic piece of Labour legislation by newspaper headline - actually made no difference in practice.

    Changing companies so that other stakeholders came ahead of shareholders would result in people stopping investing - after all if other stakeholders come first then they should take the financial risk of being equityholders

  • Comment number 97.

    Thanks Robert. I haven't read the report yet, but I did watch the video on BP's web site. But it was all way too technical for my tiny little brain. But you've made it all clear. A giant oil spill is just like a dodgy curry! Simples.

    Really. Are we so stupid we need to be talked down to like that? You refer to "BP's highly technical report". What did you expect. Instead of trying to precis it Janet and John style for us, why not credit people with a bit of intelligence. We might be able to understand technical complexity. Or at least accept that some things are simple, sometimes highly technical operations in hostile environments go wrong, and maybe it's not just one person's fault.

    I listened to Mark Bly's 30 minute summary of the disaster. Technical, clear, informative. In stark contrast to the vote getting of politicians when they talk about this issue, and the crass simplification, reader getting if you like, of journalists who discuss this.

  • Comment number 98.

    When you purchase something that does not work or caused damage you claim of the company that provided you with the service or goods. If they were in turn supplied with substandard service or parts your provider in turn sues them for redress and a court apportions blame.
    Your example dodgy meal from the supermarket give you a right to claim from the supermarket and they can claim redress from their supplier and so on down the supply chain. In the safety conscious aircraft industry every stage of manufacture is recorded for every component. Every part has an identity code upon it and you can check back every stage of manufacture and the conformance documents covering every stage of manufacture should the need arise to blame someone or some company for a failure.

  • Comment number 99.

    Even more perplexing than the talk of curry all the way through the comments is this: BP was operating in the Gulf of Mexico. That's is in America. All the way over there. That enormous land mass on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Surprising as it may seem to some, British law, like the UK Sale of Goods Act, and any other English, Scottish, EU law doesn't apply over there. Intead they have their own laws.

    It is those US laws that matter.



  • Comment number 100.

    I found the curry comparison relevant. Robert was merely using it to make the point that although BP was not in direct control of all of the areas in which mistakes were made, it is still held fully accountable for the disaster by the public/markets etc. (and quite rightly too).
    I see this as a key area of concern for BP shareholders, who have a huge interest in the strength of BP's brand.

 

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