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BP & Nationalism

Those of you who know me will be aware I am a little bit of a news fiend – and I often watch the American CBS and ABC evening news which is repeated on Sky News / BBC over here at 0030 and 0130; but lately their coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster has ground on me enough now to provoke a blog post.  Well, that combined with the outbursts of the previously sensible President Obama.

They seem to have lost all context as to what is actually happening, but what grates on me the most if the anti-British propaganda they are promoting.  Obviously I am somewhat bound to say this as I am British; but I would be equally annoyed if they were rounding on a French / Spanish / Brazillian company – the accident which occurred in the Gulf Of Mexico has nothing to do with the nationality of the company involved.   If anything you could argue that the regulatory oversight of the country licencing the drilling was lacking.

However, we need to provide some context to the GoM diasaster which I think some in the American media are missing:

  • Transocean, the company whose rig it was that blew up, is listed on the NYSE and traces its roots back to Birmingham, AL.
  • BP’s Deepwater Horizon killed 11 people.  Occidental’s Piper Alpha Disaster killed 167 people in UK waters, and is the worlds worst offshore oil disaster.
  • 39% of BP’s shareholding is held by American’s.  40% by British.  Most of the shareholders are institutional pension funds.  Stopping the dividend hurts these funds.
  • An estimated 15,000 people died as a result of the industrial incident in Bhopal, India in 1984; a plant ran by an American company.
  • Chevron, a large American, company are currently being sued because they refuse to acknowledge environmental damage around the Lago Agrio field in Ecuador.
  • ExxonMobil’s environmental disasters in Alaska & The Niger Delta.
  • Obama was the biggest single recipient of BP campaign donations.

The point I am trying to make is not an anti-American one, but simply that the disaster which has beset the GoM & BP has nothing to do with BP being a British company (if indeed it really is?).  Those American’s who believe so, notably including Sarah Palin, should really stop being so niave.  The USA and the UK have a long standing special relationship, born out of our broadly common outlook on life – a relationship which has seen our countrymen stand shoulder to shoulder in warfare… just look at the extraordinary flying of Flt Lt Fortune, shot in the helmet, to rescue US troops.

So, I think the Amercian media, and President Obama should possibly try and put a cap on the hypocrisy of it all and concentrate on making sure that BP is held fairly to account and pays for its mistakes; while more importantly improving the regulatory oversight and licensing of operations in the GoM by both national and “foreign” oil companies.

Interesting Links for June 8th.

These are my interesting links for June 8th:

The Cost Of Doing Business

And why not to refer to customers as Bastards.

Following the recent Volcanic Ash induced airspace closures in Europe a lot has been made, particularly by the low cost carriers, of the effects of the EU261 regulation about passengers refund rights. As to be expected Ryanair was the most vocal of these, and its enigmatic CEO Michael O’Leary initially refused to pay any claims arising under EU261 as a result of the grounding of his aircraft.  He later had to back track on this (presumably after advice from his lawyers).

Well, it seems that he is back on the offensive about the compensation, and this Guardian article really got my back up.  I should say I have no personal claim from Ryanair (or any other airline), and I have flown with Ryanair a couple of times and found their aircraft and crew to be exemplary.


I actually have mixed feelings on EU261; I think it is right that airlines should look after passengers when they let them down (on which note:  Never fly with Delta!), however you also have to have responsibility for sorting yourself out.  You can’t rely on other people your whole life.

However it is not a retrospective regulation which either the EU or national governments have introduced since the ash cloud airspace closures, it was introduced in 2004 and came in to force in February 2005 – or 5 years ago.  So the airlines have known about it since 2004, and should be factoring it in to the cost of doing business.  Its a regulation like any other and compliance with it has a cost attached which has to be factored into your business plan.  It is non negotiable, a condition of operating passenger flights in Europe.  No one  is forcing Mr O’Leary to operate in Europe.

Ryanair Aircraft
Ryanair Aircraft

Volcano’s have been around a little while too, and the danger of volcanic ash to commercial jet engines has been well documented since the incident involving British Airways flight 9 in 1982.  Add these three bits of information together and you would have thought any business with the clear commercial aptitude of Ryanair would have allowed for this possibility, albeit remotely.

Weather is most probably the biggest factor to consider when flying, and the likelihood of snow / fog / rain closing airports is factored into business plans as a potential cost.  This should have been too.

You can’t simply pick and choose which laws you want to comply with, although Mr. O’Leary thinks he can.  If he wants to challenge those laws, or lobby for amendments or new laws then that is his & the airlines right.  For the record I think there should be some upper limits on EU261.

Own Worst Enemy.

Most airlines graciously accepted that the grounding of flights was not the fault of the passengers, could not reasonably have been foreseen and was part of their commercial risk (aviation is full of risks which have to be managed); and arranged accommodation, food and transportation for their passengers.  In doing so they undoubtedly managed to secure bulk discounts on hotels, food etc.  I have a friend who was stranded in Mexico at the time, and this is precisely what Thomas Cook did for him.

Ryanair didn’t do this though, in their inevitable style they left people to fend for themselves.  So people did.  And they paid “rack rate” for hotels during a period of peak demand, tourist rate for goods and services and Ryanair could exercise no control over this!  They made it worse for themselves; and then refer to their customers as “bastards using a cheaters charter.”

What a charming company. The Italian authorities have already caught up with Ryanair and fined them €3m, but I personally hope their failure to account for the cost of doing business costs them more in lost customers.  I won’t fly with them again.

Interesting Links for May 25th.

These are my interesting links for May 25th:

Interesting Links for April 19th.

These are my interesting links for April 19th:

Interesting Links for April 2nd.

These are my interesting links for April 2nd:

Interesting Links for March 31st.

These are my interesting links for March 31st:

  • Ford To Save $1.2m by turning off PC’s. – Ford have developed software which they claim will save them $1.2m annually by turning off unattended PCs at night and the weekends. I wonder if they have accounted for the time spent re-doing work the software doesn't manage to save?
  • Tories may scrap IR35 tax rules for contractors – A suggestion from the Conservative party that they may scrap the onerous IR35 rules which apply to me and many friends. Its not enough for me to vote Tory though!