Judge says BP can’t use Transocean insurance to pay Gulf spill costs

BP Plc (BP) can’t use Transocean Ltd. (RIG)’s insurance coverage to pay costs related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a judge in New Orleans ruled.

BP filed claims with Transocean’s carriers last year, seeking to gain access to $750 million in coverage under multiple policies. Lloyd’s of London, along with other excess underwriters, and Ranger Insurance, Transocean’s primary insurer, opposed the claims, contending the rig owner’s contract with BP didn’t provide such coverage.

The carriers owe no duty to pay claims or defense costs to BP, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier said today.

“The court finds that BP, under the drilling contract, assumed responsibility for Macondo well oil release pollution liabilities,” Barbier said in a 42-page ruling. “Because Transocean did not assume these liabilities, there is no additional insurance obligation in favor of BP for these liabilities.”

The Macondo blowout and the explosion that followed killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. The accident and spill led to hundreds of lawsuits against London-based BP and its partners and contractors. The lawsuits over economic losses and personal injuries have been combined before Barbier.

The lawsuits also name as defendants Transocean, the Switzerland-based owner and operator of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded and sank; Houston-based Halliburton Co. (HAL), which provided cementing services to the well; and Cameron International, which provided blowout-prevention equipment.

BP’s minority partners in the well, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (APC) and Mitsui & Co.’s Moex Offshore LLC unit, were also sued. Anadarko and Moex have joined BP in seeking coverage from Transocean’s insurance.

Guy Cantwell and Brian Kennedy, spokesmen for Transocean, didn’t immediately respond to requests seeking comment on today’s ruling. Scott Dean, a BP spokesman, had no immediate comment on the decision.