PORT FOURCHON, La. — The Secor Power lift boat was toppled by wind gusts reported at over 80 miles an hour and swelling seas Tuesday, capsizing about 7 miles into a 100-plus-mile trip from Port Fourchon to an oil platform on the other side of Louisiana’s bird-foot Mississippi River delta.
As Coast Guard crews worked desperately to find any more survivors Wednesday, Coast Guard Captain Will Watson said at a news conference that a federal investigation will try to determine who had a hand in deciding to send the vessel under such circumstances – and if they could have expected the conditions the Seacor Power ran into.
“All of those things remain under investigation,” Watson said. “We’re trying to figure this thing out as we go.”
Watson said the Coast Guard knew the boat was headed to Main Pass but didn’t know what “mission they were on.”
But multiple sources with direct knowledge of the vessel’s business confirmed to WWL-TV that oil and gas company Talos Energy had hired the Seacor Marine vessel to shuttle equipment and other materials to a Talos oil platform.
That platform is in an area of the Gulf of Mexico identified by its oil and gas lease block area and number Main Pass 138. Main Pass is a shallow area east of the Mississippi River Delta, and the least blocks are laid out in a grid, with each block covering 9 square miles. Block 138 includes a number of oil and gas wells under a single platform and sits about 40 miles due east of the town of Boothville.
Talos Energy was not in control of the Seacor vessel when it collapsed, but sources say the investigation will try to determine if Talos played any role in sending the vessel at that particular time or if the decision was entirely with Seacor.
The lift boat was on its way to provide additional space on the platform to perform work completing a drilled oil well. The platform is typically manned by five people, one from Talos known as the company man and four provided by various Talos contractors.
The platform ties into a cluster of wells on the seafloor below and it is currently producing oil and gas extracted from those wells.
Talos owns dozens of leases off the Louisiana coast, in both shallow and deepwater areas of the Gulf. Just hours before the accident, Talos proudly announced a major new oil find at one of its deepwater wells.
A person familiar with the Talos operations was able to confirm certain facts for this story, including that there were no Talos employees on the Seacor vessel when it capsized and that there was no deadline for the crew to arrive at the Main Pass platform.
The oil and gas operator has faced serious federal safety fines in 2013 and 2015, but those were for deadly incidents on platforms run by a different company that Talos purchased. Talos went on to vastly improve that safety record, according to federal offshore safety data.
For its part, Seacor has faced only two marine accident lawsuits in federal courts in New Orleans and Houston over the last five years. Both cases were filed by workers claiming the company’s negligence caused them to sustain injuries on Seacor vessels. Both cases settled out of court.
Seacor did not respond to multiple messages seeking comment. It sent out a written statement focusing on the search and rescue efforts and saying it was working closely with the Coast Guard on that.