Nightmare start for BP chairman Svanberg

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a tough start for Swedish BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, who started in January.

Money is flowing out of BP, with the company’s stock price plummeting on the London Stock Exchange. However, the oil giant’s new Swedish chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, has remained silent about the disaster.

According to Toby Odone, press officer at BP’s headquarters in London, the former Ericsson CEO has so far not commented on the issue, adding it is unclear if he will do so in the future.

“I do not know. We have other executives who are involved in this,” said Odone.

He added he does not know if Svanberg has visited or will visit the disaster area and declined to direct further queries.

“We are dealing with an oil spill right now and all our staff are working to clean up the oil as quickly as possible so that it will not harm the US coast,” said Odone. “This is our top priority. The chairman is not a part of it.”

The accident has proven to be a very tough start for Svanberg at his new job after taking over the reins at BP at the beginning of the year following his move from telecoms equipment maker Ericsson. Since last week’s deadly explosion on a BP-operated oil rig, the company’s stock market value has declined by about $25 billion (181 billion kronor), AP reported.

It is unlike that the spill will be expensive for BP, which had earlier said it would spend about $6 million a day to combat it. However, an analyst told Reuters that the final bill could climb to nearly $3.5 billion. In addition to the direct costs to contain and clean up the oil, BP also faces large fines in the wake of the disaster. The oil giant has already been sued by shrimpers in Louisiana and neighbouring Alabama on Wednesday and Thursday.

The appointment of Svanberg as president of BP last summer surprised many because of his lack of experience in the industry. Among the criticisms were that he is neither diplomatic nor an oil man.

However, the Swede is considerably better paid than his predecessor Peter Sutherland. According to BP’s annual report, Svanberg’s annual salary is £750,000 ($1.15 million). Sutherland received £600,000 last year. In addition, Svanberg received a £100,000 relocation allowance to move from Sweden to London.

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Out-of-control barge nearly trashes BP rig

An enormous 110m barge came within less than two kilometers of crashing into an oil platform in the Norwegian North Sea on Thursday afternoon, in the second dramatic incident to hit the industry in less than 24 hours.

Out-of-control barge nearly trashes BP rig
Eide Barge 33 is unmanned and normally towed by a tug. Photo: Eide Marine
The 110m-long barge, owned by the company Eide Marine, careered past BP’s Valhall oil platform at just past midday on Thursday, narrowly missing causing a potentially catastrophic oil platform disaster. 
“It’ll be a much better New Year’s Eve now than I had feared,” BP spokesman Jan Erik Geirmo told VG newspaper after the near-miss. “It’s been nerve-wracking, so we are relieved.” 
BP evacuated the 85-strong skeleton staff it had left on the platform by helicopter on Thursday morning, shutting down all production, after efforts to bring the barge under control failed, leaving it on course to hit the platform. It had already evacuated 150 staff on Wednesday night. 
“At 12:24 hours, we got the message that the barge had passed clear of the platform at a distance of about 1 nautical mile,” Anders Bang-Andersen, press office for Norway's southern Joint Rescue Coordination Centre told NTB. “The danger is thus over, for there is no other platforms in the immediate drift trajectory.” 
Rigs for ConocoPhillips’ Ekofisk field, just north of Valhall and the next closest to the barge, are not at risk unless a change in weather conditions alters the barge's course, but the company has nonetheless evacuated 145 staff from its Eldfish platform. 
“We are monitoring the situation and we have the resources at Ekofisk to do what is necessary if the barge comes close to our platforms,” Tore Falck, ConocoPhillips’ press officer, told VG
According to Norway’s state broadcaster NRK, Eide Marine currently has three boats close to the barge attempting to bring it under control. 
“We are discussing whether to try and get a grip on the tow rope whichh has broken, or whether to use special harpoons that they can shoot through the hull,” Ben Vikøren, from the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, told NTB. 
On Thursday afternoon, Henning Bruvik, the Captain of COSL Innovator, which was badly damaged when it was hit by a giant wave on Wednesday evening, told NRK that there was little he could have done to prepare for it. 
“No one ever really knows when you might be hit. The sea is capricious,” he said. “We have been out in such weather before. No one could have expected such an event, even in the weather we had at that time.” 
Jørgen Arnesen, the chief executive of the rig’s owner COSL, estimated that the freak wave which swept over the rig must have been at least 20m high.