Oil Leak 280 Complacency and Complexity

More lessons from Deepwater Horizon:

“As the Board that investigated the loss of the Columbia space shuttle noted, “complex systems almost always fail in complex ways.” Though it is tempting to single out one crucial misstep or point the finger at one bad actor as the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, any such explanation provides a dangerously incomplete picture of what happened—encouraging the very kind of complacency that led to the accident in the first place and welfare.”

Now, transferring oil between two ships at sea may seem straightforward, just like filling up your car as Mr Buskie once alluded to in an email. It’s not, it is a very complex system with many variable: you need to consider the size, age and design of the ships, maintenance of ships, pilotage, collision risk, grounding risk, high pressure pumps, hoses, crews – their training, language barriers with foreign crews, human error, oil spill contingency planning, availability of oil clean up equipment and contractor, explosion risk, sea state, security, you need an STS superintendent that know what he’s doing, sea state, shut down procedures, fendering, small “everyday” spills – we are just scratching the surface. Try drawing that on an organogram and you’ll see it just needs one of those elements to fail for things to go badly wrong. If it does, it is the environment and communities around the firth(s) that will suffer. It is this very kind of complacency that we witnessed in the CFPA’s STS application and it this very kind of complacency that will lead to an accident. That is why we need to redouble our efforts to stop this.