Trust the Europeans to say it right without being politically correct. According to Tor Svenson, the president of Det Norske Veritas, environmental concerns have taken over the maritime safety agenda, and this has serious repercussions for shipping safety in general.
Svenson spoke in London at a meeting of ship-owners, and said that poor training and lack of attention to the human element in the maritime industry could have serious implications. Svenson is particularly concerned about environmental concerns taking precedence over the safety of seamen, longshoremen, and others in the maritime industry. Does that theory ring a bell? It should. We have seen plenty of examples of this during the BP oil spill disaster.
When the Deepwater Horizon exploded, it was a national story, and made headlines. The media outlets paid some attention paid to the fact that 11 workers perished in the offshore oil rig explosion. However, the story really seemed to break into the public imagination when it was discovered that the well was leaking hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
When that fact became known, coverage picked up, and environmentalists pounced on BP and the oil industry in general. President Obama even joined in by instituting an offshore deepwater drilling moratorium. Politicians and pundits became permanent fixtures on every news channel. Lawmakers and legislators stood on the steps of Capitol Hill and huffed and puffed, wagging an admonishing finger at BP. And all the while, television stations streamed a steady flow of images of oil soaked pelicans and other marine life. Gone was even the slightest mention of the 11 workers whose families never got the chance to say goodbye to them.
No one disputes the severity of the environmental impact of the BP oil spill. However, there must be a balance between ensuring worker safety and safeguarding the environment. Right now, the scales seem to tip too heavily in favor of the environment. And as the Macondo well is finally, permanently plugged and Judge Barbier sets a trial date for the Transocean limitations proceedings, maritime lawyers want the world to refocus on the safety of our offshore workers.
The maritime attorneys at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris, LLP represent injured maritime workers and offshore employees in Texas throughout the Gulf Coast Region, and worldwide.