Working on an oil rig, drilling for oil and gas offshore, is one of the most dangerous professions in the United States today. Unfortunately, these risks are unavoidable. Oftentimes an offshore incident occurs because people are working 12-hour shifts each day with very combustible materials on a small platform with cranes swinging heavy materials around over their head.
An Example of an Offshore Incident: the Deepwater Horizon oil Spill
One very well-known offshore incident was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This occurred in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and left oil spewing into the area’s water for 87 days. A flawed well plan that didn’t include enough cement between the 7-inch production casing and the 9 7/8-inch protection casing caused this offshore incident. When this happened 11 platform workers died. Although the Coast Guard spent three days searching for their bodies, they were never found. An additional 17 people were also injured.
According to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier BP was mostly to blame for this offshore incident. He also said that Transocean, owner of the drilling rig, and Haliburton, the cement contractor, were blameworthy. As such, BP paid out over $20 billion for this offshore incident – only a small fraction of the $61.6 billion needed for cleaning up the spill itself. This was the largest settlement with a single entity in the history of the U.S. Department of Justice. Somehow, miraculously, BP is still in business today.
Over the course of history there have been many incidents caused by offshore drilling. BP is simply the biggest and so it’s the best known offshore incident. Anyone who works in this industry knows and understands just how dangerous their job is. Fortunately, the United States also realizes this as well. For this reason, they’ve enacted the Jones Act ((39 Stat. 545, c. 416 a.k.a. the Merchant Marine Act of 1920).
This federal statute protects anyone working in the maritime industry today. As a cabotage law it covers anyone working on any ship conducting trade between ports within the United States. This offers them extra coverage when an offshore incident occurs because of a company’s negligence. The compensation available under the Jones Act is in addition to the compensation an injured maritime worker receives regardless of fault. So, while maritime workers do have a very dangerous job, they also have a great deal of protection when and if an offshore incident occurs.