Robot crash blunder adds new havoc to Gulf disaster
OIL gushed freely from BP's ruptured Gulf of Mexico well yesterday after a collision involving an undersea robot stopped efforts to contain the worst oil spill in US history.
The latest setback came as US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar revealed that initial investigations showed "reckless conduct" in the days leading up to the April 20 explosion on the offshore oil rig that ruptured BP's Gulf of Mexico well.
He did not elaborate on his observation that he believed reckless behaviour was involved in the rig blast in which 11 workers were killed, and he did not point the finger at any particular company.
However, US lawmakers have accused BP of cutting corners and putting savings before safety. The company leased the rig from Transocean and was a part owner in the ruptured well with Anadarko.
In an attempt to ease public anger and put an end to a series of public relations disasters BP yesterday appointed Mississippi native Bob Dudley to take charge of handling the Gulf spill.
The company is desperate to clean up its image and take the spotlight off chief executive Tony Hayward, the Englishman whose gaffes have infuriated Americans. BP confirmed that Mr Dudley would now deal with the economic damage caused.
Mr Dudley, who had led BP's operations in the Americas and Asia, is no stranger to tough situations, having protected his company's interests in rough dealing in Russia even after he was barred from the country.
The criticism has fuelled investor fears about BP's future. Since April 20, its stock has lost half its value and is trading at levels not seen since 1996.
In a further problem for the beleaguered British company, New York State's pension fund, a BP investor, yesterday threatened to sue over the halving of its stock price since the start of the crisis.
After siphoning off a record amount of oil from its blown-out well on Tuesday, BP suffered a setback when an undersea robot crashed into the containment cap system that channels leaking oil from the mile-deep well to a ship on the surface.
The oil slick has shut down rich fishing grounds, killed hundreds of turtles and seabirds and dozens of dolphins. It has also soiled the coastline in four US states.
The Obama administration has imposed a six-month ban on all new deepsea drilling while it sought to improve safety procedures on other rigs in the Gulf.
The US government estimates that up to four million barrels of oil have spewed into the ocean since April 20.