VoO Payments Should Not Be Deducted From BP Settlements
Commercial Charter Fishing Vessels “Getting thrown under the Bus and run over not once but twice” in the new proposed BP Settlement
In April, 2010, shortly after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting BP oil spill, BP sanctioned meetings that were held at marinas and town halls along the Gulf Coast for the purpose of recruiting boat owners to join their Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program.
The VoO program contracted with local commercial and charter fishing boat owners and their captains to assist BP in cleaning up the offshore oil spill. The boat crews were primarily responsible for skimming, collecting oil, removing tar balls and maintaining the boom.
Payment was offered based on the size of the boat and crew. The boat was to be available 24/7 with no payment offered if not deployed.The boat owners were informed that if they agreed to offer their vessel and work in the VoO program, any earnings from the cleanup efforts would not be deducted from any additional BP oil spill claim that they may file.
In addition, BP attorney, A.T. Chenault confirmed this agreement in a letter dated May 3, 2010, “Lastly we confirm that BP will not offset payments to vessel owners or other volunteers against claims they might have.”
All Groups Should Be Exempt From the VoO Deduction, Not Just a Select Few
In the latest published proposed BP settlement of Wednesday, April 18th, 2012, it appears that commercial charter boat owners are not being treated fairly.
The 1,122 page settlement includes the statement that commercial charter boat vessels will have to pay back 33% of their prior VoO earnings plus 50% of the unpaid VoO settlement payment.
Meanwhile, recreational vessels and commercial fishing vessels used by shrimpers, oystermen and fin fishermen will keep 100% of prior VoO earnings plus 100% of their VoO settlement payments.
The captains and crews of the commercial charter vessels worked side by side with the fishing and recreational vessels, sometimes for days at a time in an effort to protect our beaches and wildlife.
They all worked in the same dangerous areas and took the same risk of exposure to the dangers of the oil spill and the dispersants used in the cleanup.
Now two years later, BP is proposing to thank the owners of the commercial charter vessels by reneging on their previous agreement and lowering their VoO earnings.
The GCCF, under Kenneth Feinberg, had apparently refused BP’s directive to deduct the VoO earnings from the charter boats owners as that was not the original agreement and the earnings were not subtracted in GCCF’s written notice of September 23, 2010.
In spite of verbal and written confirmation from BP and their attorney, after the work is completed BP seems to have changed their minds about the payments offered to the charter boat owners.
Commercial Charter Fishing Boats get the Same Multiplier as a T-Shirt Shop
All the vessels used in the VoO shared the same resources and faced the same risks while involved in the BP Oil Spill cleanup efforts. The Risk Transfer Premium (RTP) is the amount paid to a claimant for any and all alleged damage, including potential future injuries, damages or losses not currently known, which later can be said to result in any way from the BP Oil Spill.
The RTP for a commercial finfish vessel is 6 times their loss while under this settlement a commercial charter vessel has a RTP of 2.5 times their loss which is identical to that of a T-shirt shop on the beach. Any negative impact will affect both vessels equally. For example, a 10% negative impact on red snapper fishing will cause both groups to suffer.
If the Risk is Equal Then the RTP Should be Equal
This cannot be a good and fair settlement if commercial charter fishing boats are not treated the same as any other vessel that opted into the VoO program to assist in the BP Oil Spill cleanup efforts.
BP needs to stand behind their promises and commitments to ALL the people of the Gulf states. If you are in the seafood settlement, the VoO payment should not be deducted from your income as promised in the May 2010 letter from BP attorney, A.T. Chenault. “No other reductions to the compensation amount under the Seafood Compensation Program will be taken, including compensation received for work in the VoO Program.”
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