Since the Nov. 16 explosion on a Black Elk Energy platform in the Gulf of Mexico left three men dead and three injured, one of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently is why were most of the workers Filipino.
Houston-based Black Elk has a long history of offshore violations, but the Filipinio connection apparently relates to Grand Isle Shipyard, the contractor it was using for maintenance on the rig. In my interview with Black Elk chief executive John Hoffman for Sunday’s column, he referred me to a report — see the video above — from a New Orleans television station that investigated the Filipino connection.
As the above video shows, many of Grand Isle’s workers were recruited from the Philippines, and they claim they were forced to work under deplorable, even slave-like conditions. As WWLT’s Brendan Murray reported last week, the government has now granted some of the workers amnesty and designated them as victims of human trafficking.
Hoffman called the accident “a terrible tragedy” and said he has met with the victims’ families.
Filipino workers were recruited because they were cheaper, Francis Spangnoletti, the Houston attorney representing the injured workers, told me. While they weren’t hired by Black Elk, Spagnoletti said the company is still responsible for the accident.
“Black Elk was the operator,” he said. “Black Elk is responsible for what happened out there.”