Crewmember of Hurricane-Damaged Drillship Files Injury Lawsuit

U.S. Coast Guard personnel inspect Globetrotter II after the casualty (USCG image)

Published Sep 9, 2021 3:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

A crewmember from the damaged drillship Noble Globetrotter II has filed a Jones Act seamans' injury lawsuit against operator Noble Drilling and charterer Shell, alleging that they failed to take appropriate action to protect the vessel and crew from the impact of Hurricane Ida. 

In late August, the Globetrotter II was operating at a Shell-owned lease site south of the Mississippi River Delta. She was engaged in drilling a well when then-Tropical Storm Ida formed in the Caribbean, and her crew disconnected and departed the site to get out of the storm's path on August 28. The vessel still experienced "hurricane" conditions, according to Noble, and it sustained significant damage. A cofferdam space was breached, resulting in limited flooding, and photos taken on board appear to show damaged equipment on deck. Nine crewmembers sustained minor injuries, including four who were medevaced to shore. 

According to a complaint filed by attorneys for the injured crewmember - rig roustabout Brandon Freeman - the vessel experienced swells of up to 80 feet and winds of up to 150 miles per hour because Globetrotter II "headed directly into Hurricane Ida," coming within 10 miles of the eyewall. The suit alleges that "ferocious sea tossed the crew around and threw them into walls" and that the heeling motion "was so extreme that the Globetrotter II almost capsized several times." Under the severe circumstances, some crewmembers believed that "they were going to die," the suit claims. 

Freeman's attorneys alleged that Shell and Noble had knowledge of the risk posed by Ida and failed to take action to protect the vessel and crew. "Despite the undeniable path of the oncoming storm, defendants continued to operate the vessel in direct defiance of the National Hurricane Center's forecast," the suit claims. 

The U.S. Coast Guard inspected the vessel at sea after the storm passed, and its team determined that she was stable and had adequate emergency equipment on board. The ship has put into port at Pascagoula, Mississippi for repairs, and Noble Drilling has declared force majeure for the vessel's charter with Shell. 

In an update last week, Noble Drilling also reported that the "weather event" caused the ship to drop the lower marine riser package and several riser joints from its drill string, which was still suspended from the rig after it detached from the well. Environmental watchdog groups noted that the seabed in that section of the Gulf is home to countless oil pipelines, which carry crude from offshore production platforms back to receiving terminals on shore. So far, there have been no signs of leakage reported in the area. 

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) has confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding damage to Globetrotter II.