Deepwater Horizon and Subchapter M
December 20, 2014
After I read
the indictment of two BP officials, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine, on 11
counts of seaman’s manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, I couldn't help
but think about Subchapter M and the future of the towing vessel industry.
Kaluza were well sight leaders on the Deepwater
Horizon rig on the day of the explosion. The accident killed 11 people.
According to the indictment, these well sight leaders were responsible for “supervising
the implementation of BP’s drilling plan.”
Subchapter M, if a company operates under a Towing Safety Management System
(TSMS), the captain will be responsible for “supervising the implementation of
the company TSMS.”
indictment said that Vidrine and Kaluza were grossly negligent in their duties
for not doing what they were supposed to do. Specifically, they failed to call
the BP engineers ashore during the negative testing about the multiple readings
that the well was not secure, failed to adequately account for those abnormal
readings and accepted a nonsensical explanation for those readings. They were
not following the plan, and an explosion resulted in many deaths.
A few years
back the towing industry experienced several accidents when tows hit bridges.
Bridge transit procedures were added to many safety management systems. The
idea, as with any written safety plan, is if you follow it you will minimize
the risk of human error. Many captains can’t explain the bridge transit
procedures. Many protest that they don’t need some book to tell them how to drive
But what if a
captain fails to account for wind and leeway on a big tow and he takes the
bridge out and cars plunge into the river? I’m sure Vidrine and Kaluza relied
on their experience as well and did not think that the rig would blow up. Had
they followed the plan, perhaps 11 people would not have died and they might
not be facing jail time.
towing company chooses a TSMS for Subchapter M, make sure you have the best
possible procedures in place and that your captains know they must follow them
at all times. As a wise man once said, really smart people don’t learn from
their mistakes, they learn from other people’s mistakes.
information, visit Maritime Compliance International.