Boat owners claim BP owes more than $600 million already paid

Steve Korris Nov. 8, 2011, 12:41am



NEW ORLEANS – Boat owners who made $600 million cleaning the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon explosion claim BP owes them much more.

They seek a federal court order that would increase the number of days they can charge BP at the daily rate in "vessel of opportunity" agreements they signed after the disaster.

BP pleads that the agreements provided for separate charter terms, and boat owners plead that the agreements provided for a single term from start to finish.

"BP contracted for round the clock use of VoO boats," Stephen Herman of New Orleans and James Roy of Lafayette wrote for the boat owners on Nov. 3.

"In exchange, it offered monetary consideration," they wrote.

"BP repeatedly states it spent $600 million in VoO as if to suggest, isn't that enough?

"Considering BP spilled over 775 million gallons of oil that needed to be cleaned up, the irrelevance of that information is evident."

Herman and Roy lead a plaintiff steering committee in multi district litigation over damages from the explosion.

On behalf of the boat owners, they asked District Judge Carl Barbier for partial summary judgment on their interpretation of a single charter term.

On Oct. 27, BP replied that it fully performed its obligations and responsibilities.

Don Haycraft and Keith Jarrett, of Liskow and Lewis in New Orleans, wrote that BP paid lead plaintiff Hoi Nguyen $250,140.

"According to his own testimony, he also received $148,000 from the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, likely for lost income, and at least several monthly payments of $5,000 each," they wrote.

"Mr. Nguyen is now asking for either an additional $182,400 or $277,400, depending on whether you look at his plaintiff fact sheet or his interrogatory responses, for time that he admits he did not work or perform any VoO activities," they wrote.

They wrote that daily compensation depended principally on the length of a vessel.

They wrote that BP paid owners for each day worked in a charter term and reimbursed them for fuel and other expenses.

They wrote that about 4,800 vessels participated and BP paid owners $600 million.

That equals $125,000 per vessel.

They wrote that the agreements supplied a legal and commercial framework for BP and owners to agree quickly and conveniently on individual time charters.

Herman and Roy responded that in order to succeed, BP had to preclude owners from using their vessels for other purposes.

"Indeed, were vessel owners permitted to pursue other endeavors, rather than standing ready to deploy at a moment's notice, BP would have been unable to mount an immediate disaster response," they wrote.

"The price of that committed response capability is that some of it may need to be at the ready, but not actually on the water," they wrote.

"This is not, as BP seems to imply, an inequity visited on BP," they wrote.

"It is a consequence of BP's decision to pursue deepwater drilling for its own profit," they wrote.

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