BP safety talk is really about shareholders

ALL'S WELL? BP's "powerful" new safety unit is seeking to make life more comfortable for its shareholders.

The creation by BP of a new global safety unit with “sweeping powers” has the safety of shareholders’ money as its “ultimate goal”, the company’s top boss has admitted.

In a 1 October news release from the oil giant’s London HQ announcing the “powerful new organisation”, BP chair Carl-Henric Svanberg said there were “difficult challenges ahead” but added “we have assembled a strong and able new team and are developing a robust strategy to deal with them and to deliver our ultimate goal – the restoration of shareholder value.”

Mark Bly, who headed BP’s internal investigation into the hugely damaging US Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will run the new unit. His report has been criticised for overlooking the role of BP’s top management, including its London-based board, in decisions contributing to the disaster, which killed 11 workers and unleashed an environmental catastrophe. In evidence last month to a US Department of the Interior-commissioned National Academy of Engineering hearing, Bly admitted his internal BP team has only looked at the immediate cause of the 20 April disaster, conceding the study “does not represent a complete penetration into potentially deeper issues.”

Commenting on the formation of Bly’s new global safety unit, Bob Dudley, who took over from Tony Hayward as BP chief executive on 1 October, said it will have authority to intervene in all aspects of BP’s technical activities. He added that the company will also conduct “a fundamental review” of its business performance incentives, including its “reward strategy”.

Dudley said: “These are the first and most urgent steps in a programme I am putting in place to rebuild trust in BP – the trust of our customers, of governments, of our employees and of the world at large. That trust is vital to the restoration of shareholder value which has been so adversely affected by recent events. The changes are in areas where I believe we most clearly need to act, with safety and risk management our most urgent priority.”

BP was fined a $15 million last month for pollution offences related to fires at its troubled Texas City refinery, which released highly toxic plumes including carcinogenic benzene into the air. Fifteen workers died in an explosion at the plant in 2005.

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