Oil Workers on Foreign-flagged Ships Are in the ‘Clutches’ of Corps.

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Oil workers on foreign-flagged ships are at the mercy of corporations, reports WWNO.

Hurricane Ida

As Hurricane Ida zeroed in on Louisiana, Howell McIntyre was trapped nearly 100 miles offshore aboard a 620-foot drillship named the Globetrotter II. The Category 4 storm pummeled the ship with 150 mph winds and waves as tall as oak trees, threatening to capsize it.

McIntyre was knocked against a wall, banging his head and knees. Another worker, Michael Brunner, was thrown from his bed and slammed into lockers.

Legal trouble for workers

The workers face a significant legal hurdle: While the Globetrotter II is owned by a U.S. company and was contracted by a British company, it sails under a Liberian flag, which means it’s not subject to many of the labor and environmental regulations American vessels must follow.

Flying a foreign flag is just one way companies evade accountability for injuries and deaths that occur while pulling oil and natural gas from the seafloor, an inherently dangerous line of work. Oil and gas extraction workers on land and offshore are about six times more likely than the average U.S. worker to be killed on the job, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2008 to 2017, the most recent data available.

Increasing number of fatalities 

Even as the offshore workforce has shrunk 40% in recent years, fatalities have increased. New data collected by Floodlight and HuffPost finds that offshore deaths in particular are being undercounted.

At least 138 offshore oil and gas workers died on the job between 2007 and 2020, according to aggregated public records from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard.

However, the BSEE disclosed only 53 fatalities during that time period. That’s in part because the agency has excluded deaths that occur on the way to or from drilling rigs and those from causes like heart attacks, which might be treatable if workers weren’t so far from civilization.

Of the offshore fatalities where Floodlight and HuffPost were able to determine the flag of the ship, about 40% occurred on vessels flagged in other countries, including the Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 men.

Companies register their ships in other countries that have weaker worker protections and environmental regulations than the U.S., allowing them to save money by avoiding higher standards.

But crews on foreign-flagged ships and their families may have a harder time getting compensated under a U.S. law that gives them the right to sue for injuries and death at sea, according to maritime injury lawyers.

Read more here. 

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Source: WWNO

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