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The Guardian: Van der Veer – a safe pair of hands? (Bill Campbell will be interested in this article)

Julia Finch
Thursday March 29, 2007

Jeroen van der Veer deserves the chance to continue much of the good work he has put in at Shell since taking over from Sir Philip Watts in 2004.

Memories of the reserves scandal will stay with many investors for a long time but the oil major has seen its reputation hugely enhanced since its humiliation at the hands of the US regulator.

Mr van der Veer can take much of the credit for that, although the restructuring of the dual-company structure that has also helped modernise the group, was the result of a wider board decision.

The worthy Dutchman has also been blessed with a good head wind from a rocketing oil price which has brought record profits. But he can take full credit for bringing more internal cohesion through his cooperative – if not exactly charismatic – working approach.

The one big area where he has fallen down is safety. This month Shell admitted that 37 employees and contractors had died on company business last year.

That was more than five times higher than BP which had its own annus horribilis with the Texas City fire in 2005. Shell’s record is a blot on an industry which always claims that safety comes before everything. Many of the deaths were in road accidents and most involved contractors, but the setting up of a new safety czar is clearly overdue. There were 36 fatalities in 2005 and while the company boasts of spending $1bn on renewing its ageing North Sea platforms, that looks like a late reaction to poor earlier decisions.

As the Guardian revealed a few weeks ago, Shell has continued to receive warnings from the Health and Safety Executive that it is acting illegally with regard to safety in the North Sea. Mr van der Veer needs to bring a halt to this, and so does exploration and production boss Malcolm Brinded if he wants to stand any chance of taking over the top job.

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http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2044985,00.html

Related Guardian article: Shell safety record in North Sea takes a hammering

http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,2026737,00.html

For further information about the Shell Brent Bravo Scandal go to…

http://www.mondaq.com/article.asp?articleid=46640&searchresults=1

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