BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the result of many errors of omission and commission, none of which would have proved fatal except in the event of all the others. This is the second in a series of brief reports on failures of management not only by BP, but by BP contractors, TransOcean and Halliburton.
On Wednesday, April 17, BP Patrick O’Bryan, BP’s vice president of drilling and completions for the Gulf at the time of the Macondo blowout described hearing the rig’s master, Curt Kuchta, asked about operating the rig’s blowout preventer (BOP), designed to shut off the well in an emergency.
According to O’Bryan, Kuchta said he lacked permission from Transocean’s offshore installation manager to operate the emergency disconnect system.
“So after you see the fire and after you’ve seen mud raining on deck, you recall somebody asking Captain Kuchta about activating the BOP?” BP lawyer Hariklia “Carrie” Karis asked.
To which O’Bryan replied: “He was pretty emphatic that he couldn’t do it unless he had permission.”
Andrew Mitchell, a maritime safety expert said that Kuchta’s hesitation in activating the blowout preventer arose from the captain’s inexperience. And, he said, Transocean “operated and implemented a confusing command structure,” with the result that the captain,”did not fully understand his responsibilities, nor his overriding authority as captain of the Deepwater Horizon,”
Asked whether Kuchta was “fit to be captain of the Deepwater Horizon,” Mitchell replied: “No.”
For details, see the New Orleans Times-Picayune report Testimony wraps up in first phase of BP oil spill trial.