Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Keeping Track of the Kulluk - SEACOR Owns The Communications System

From what I can gather online - there is basically one place to keep track of what is happening with the Kulluk:  takes you to:* 

This is the site for the "united command" working on the rescuing the rig.  The four entities listed are:  
  • Shell
  • US Coast Guard
  • Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and 
  • Noble Drilling. 

They also seem to have a collective Twitter account:

I mentioned that takes you to a url from piersystems. 

Who is Pier? 
The PIER System is an all-in-one, secured web-based solution for crisis preparedness, communications management, public and media relations, employee communications, business continuity and more.
PIER provides flexible solutions for handling internal and external communications, making it easier to deliver messages, streamline processes, automate tedious tasks and prevent inaccuracy during routine events, minor incidents and major catastrophes.

One Solution for All Your Needs

Unlike other products which offer only individual capabilities, PIER has it all—in one fully integrated system. Every feature of PIER works as a stand-alone or partnered with other functions. This efficiency saves you time, money and resources while making management simple and easy.

Two-Way Communication

PIER enables two-way conversations with stakeholders, helping you to determine trending topics, mitigate rumors and strategically assess the best way forward. By listening to your stakeholders, you can get the right information to the right people when it matters most.

Improve the Way You Deliver Information

Expand the possibilities for improved communication management. Automatic updates keep people informed, allowing communicators to strategically and effectively target their audiences and stakeholders to receive and respond to critical messages quickly and efficiently.

Mobile and Remotely Available

PIER is easily accessible from Internet-enabled computers and mobile devices, allowing businesses and organizations to provide information with minimal interruption in the event of disaster or disruption.

It also mentions that Pier was acquired by O'Brien's Response Management.

And O'Brien's is owned by SEACOR:

SEACOR Holdings Inc. (SEACOR) is a diversified, multinational company that owns and operates marine and aviation assets primarily servicing the oil and gas, industrial aviation, and marine transportation industries. SEACOR also owns and operates bulk commodity barges along the U.S. Inland River Waterways; specializes in the purchase, storage, transportation, and sale of agricultural and energy commodities; and provides emergency preparedness and crisis services to governments and industry.

SEACOR is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol CKH.

The New York Times notes in its page on SEACOR Holdings that:
On March 19, 2012, J.F. Lehman & Company acquired National Response Corporation and its affiliated businesses NRC Environmental Services, SEACOR Response, and SEACOR Environmental Products (collectively NRC) from the Company.
I can't tell for sure if this acquisition included the unit that has O'Brien's, but I'm guessing, since O'Brien's still shows up on SEACOR's website, that it doesn't.  

I think it is good that the private companies and the government agencies can work cooperatively in this rescue.  But such cooperation also raises issues of cooptation of the government agencies.  Here are some questions I'd raise:

  • If they work closely and cooperatively, what happens to the agencies' responsibilities to monitor the companies and keep them accountable?  
  • How will working closely with the people from the companies as a team affect their impartiality and judgment when assessing responsibility and corrective measures?
  • What happens when all the information is posted on a site owned by a company that is in the oil support industry and is active in marine drilling and safety?  
At first glance we can appreciate that they are specialized in emergency communication systems - including this website design.
  • But what control does the government have of this website?  
  • What if the governmental agencies have disputes with Shell and Noble about what should go up?
  • Or worse, what if they have no disputes at all?
  • What obligations are there for this website to stay operational after the event? 
  • Why do media, government, and the public have to fill in information boxes before they can ask questions, but there are no names of people to contact on the website?
This feels a bit like Diebold running the voting machines. 

I don't think the industry that has caused the problem should be the one running the information system the public and the media have to use to get information about what's going on. 

I understand that government salary levels don't allow them to compete with the private sector for the best and brightest computer folks.  But when they contract out for private companies to run the website for something like this, they should get a company that has no interest in the content of the website.  I suspect though that Shell and Noble suggested, and maybe are even paying for, the website.  But there's no such thing as a free website. 


  1. I was wondering about this, and now you've gotten into it. Thanks. Linked to in my current firedoglake diary on the Kulluk:

  2. Thanks, Phil, and for your knowledgeable reporting on this.


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