TRANSOCEAN Holdings is invoking 160-year-old US admiralty laws to limit its exposure to damage claims relating to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Court documents filed in the federal court in the Southern District of Texas show that Transocean, as owner of the mobile offshore drill ship Deepwater Horizon, will rely on the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 to limit its damages to $27M. This is the estimated value of Transocean’s interest in the vessel at the time of the blast on 20 April.
The act was enacted by Congress to give US shipowners a chance to compete with foreign-flagged vessels that had limited liability under European seafaring laws. It also provided shipowners protection at a time when shipping was considered a high-risk venture.
Despite lawsuits likely to reach into the billions of dollars against Transocean, among others, the company said in its filing that Deepwater Horizon was “seaworthy, tight, staunch, strong, and properly and sufficiently manned and supplied”.
It also said any personal injury, death or physical damage was not the company’s fault.