EMAIL SENT 25 MARCH 2013 BY BILL CAMPBELL TO MICHIEL BRANDJES, ROYAL DUTCH SHELL PLC COMPANY SECRETARY & GENERAL COUNSEL CORPORATE. MR CAMPBELL IS A RETIRED HSE GROUP AUDITOR OF SHELL INTERNATIONAL. EMAIL CONCERNS LAUGHABLE STATEMENT MADE BY MARVIN ODUM (RIGHT) DESCRIBING THE KULLUK HITTING THE ROCKS AND CONSEQUENTIAL ABANDONMENT OF SHIP AS A ‘MARINE TRANSPORT ISSUE’
With the Kulluk now safely recovered, we’ll carry out a detailed assessment of the vessel to understand what those impacts might be. For now, it’s important to note that this was a marine transit issue that occurred after completion of our exploration program and well outside our theater of operations. It did not involve drilling operations.
Marvin Odum, President, Shell Oil Company
Subject: Public Statements by Royal Dutch Shell Alaska
The following is an observation, perhaps RDS find it acceptable to mislead the public but misleading employees is another issue, whether this was by accident or intent it’s for RDS to judge. You will be glad to know it is not my intention to continue with this bombardment. Mr Donovan is free to publish or amend as he sees fit.
Being in transit is a risky business
In the worldwide operations of Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), transportation incidents cause the majority of fatalities year after year, mainly road traffic accidents but not exclusively so.
For example, in its North Sea activities three aircraft incidents, the fixed wing ditching of the Shetlands, the Chinook disaster, and the helicopter ditching off Cormorant Alpha et al have resulted in circa 80 fatalities. Other Operators have had their problems also in recent years due to catastrophic failure of helicopter gear boxes.
So being in transit can be a risky business. Many Operating Units (OU’s) under the umbrella governance of the RDS parent company have responded to these risks by having HSE cases specifically prepared to demonstrably reduce the risks of marine, road and aircraft transportation within their sphere of operations.
Continuing on this theme, and specifically concerning the Kulluk incident Marvin Odum the president of RDSA recently told his employees in the in-house magazine (1) that quote for now its important to Note that this was a marine transit issue that occurred after completion of our exploration program and well outside our theatre of operations. It did not involve drilling operations unquote.
I guess even the office boys and girls inexperienced in such matters understand that you cannot drill from a rig that is under tow. However, the incident happened in the transit of a drilling vessel, owned by Shell, operated by Noble Drilling and involved a tug, the Aiviq, owned by Shell both operating I understand under the overall HSE Case for drilling operations per se.
Ultimate accountability for the health and safety of the persons involved on these vessels was clearly that of the Board of Directors in Huston so I cannot interpret or understand the statement by Odum that these events were well outside our theatre of operations. The vessel was well removed from the location it had been actively drilling is one interpretation, but that is not relevant.
The safe passage of Kulluk to its final destination should have been assured if essential controls had been in place for the overall global operation and clearly according to the DOI report they were not.
It may just be inappropriate wording but to the uninitiated reader the Odum statement suggests that he is distancing himself from his duty of care. At best the information given to employees is misleading.
(1) Alumininews 7th January last
The Kulluk refitted at considerable cost was a valuable asset and the whole drilling program depended on it. With a gross tonnage of 28,000 tons it had no propulsion, the thrusters due to be fitted in dock (2 at 1500kW) were never fitted. These thrusters could have assisted the tug by reducing the forces on the tow rope. When the weather rapidly deteriorated, not uncommon in this part of the world, the single tug struggled to handle the vessel drift and the single tow line broke. In what must have been horrendous conditions another tow rope was connected but then the tug engines failed. What we are observing here is catastrophic failure of single line components with no installed redundancy Single line components such as the single tow line and the single tug and the non availability of the thrusters which were part of the original design. Were the consequences of the lack of thrusters understood?
When in any system the consequences of failure are significant and in this case intolerable to RDSA meeting its goals and objectives it is usual to have installed redundancy in safety systems, in this case two tugs rather than one etc. The question is were the risks associated with the transit of this vessel competently assessed?