Page 6: of Maritime Reporter Magazine (July 2010)

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6 Maritime Reporter & Engineering News


T he plots, sub-plots and undercurrents of the on- going oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico makes the entirety of William Shakespeare’s work look positively pedestrian. Not an hour passes without some significant turn of events, and monitoring the situation has become sport for many.

Suffice it to say that the changes eminating from this single incident — from the political, technological and professional angles, to name just a few — will be severe and ongoing for a generation.

Last month on — and reproduced in part on page 14 — Joe Keefe examines the disaster, adding insight and analysis regarding the near- and long-term future of BP. While the future of BP is certainly central to this unfolding drama, even more critical is the direction and future of offshore oil and gas exploration in and around U.S. waters, an industry which directly and indirectly generates hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions annually.

Last month in New York, on the heels of a successful Posidonia exhibition in

Greece, I attended MarineMoney’s New York City marine finance summit. Jim

Lawrence and company did their standard excellent job of attracting a veritable “Who’s Who” of shipping, finance and legal types. While talk in the conference room and the sidelines revolved mainly around traditional, big shipping issues, there were many discussions on how the looming ecological disaster in the Gulf would affect all maritime business.

Charles Fabrikant, Chairman, President and CEO of Seacor Holdings chaired a panel entitled: “Making Sense out of the U.S. Gulf Accident.” From his per- spective and that of his panelists, one of the topline concerns could be the in- creased liability — or the potentially catastrophic elimination of liability limits in oil discharge incidents. The question is: will regulations become so tough; in- surance demands so onorous; that we in effect shrink our industry and severely limit the number of companies able to explore?, Fabrikant pondered.

One of the panelists, Robert J. MacKenzie, Managing Director, Energy &

Natural Resouces Research, FBR Capital Markets, offered a more dire view: “The blowout was a tragic but preventable accident. The big question now is ‘what is the future of oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.’ If the po- litical perception is one that this will drag on for years, you will see a mass exodus of rigs and supply boats from the Gulf of Mexico by year’s end.”

The panel came to a consensus that the accident and aftermath could drive the cost of doing business so high that it will effectively drive many of the small and medium-sized players out of the market. In concluding, Fabrikant offered an ominous — but by his own admission, a highly unlikely — thought: “If Congress were to remove all liability limits, I think it would effectively shut down off- shore oil and gas production (in the GOM).”

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