MAC has commented before on the hazards of generic ‘safety’ documents from SMS to lifeboat manuals now wandering walruses have uncovered similar documents at BP, Exxon and Conocophillips in the Gulf of Mexico.
Each company’s oil response plans include protection of the walrus. Fortunately, the walrus is not merely a rare animal in the Gulf of Mexico, it is non-existent, as are several other species mentioned in the oil spill response plans.
Both Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson and Conocophillips CEO James Mulva confessed that the documents were ‘embarassing’. They certainly were.
All three companies purchased their oil spill response plans from the same company, The Response Group. In fact, five oil majors in total bought plans from The Response Group with, allegedly, 90 per cent identical content.
The term ‘money for old rope’ leaps to mind.
The Response Group’s motto is “Your ability to respondsis our shared responsibility”.
Captain Richard Gayton, Vice President and principal surveyor for the Shipowners Claims Bureau, discussing the use of generic documents in the maritime industry is undoubtedly right when he suggests that a generic SMS is probably a symptom of a weak safety culture at management level that will certainly be reflected in practices onboard ship. The same would seem to apply to offshore companies who fall back on generic documents to meet regulatory measures rather than develop a custom-built, practical, realistic response plan.
The seriousness with which the plans were taken is thoroughly demonstrated by the fact that the Minerals Management Service, the US government agency which regulates the plans and is responsible for approving them, and the companies that bought the plans and the company that wrote the plans, were unaware of the non-existence of the wildlife they were supposed to protect.