The Ocean Ranger was the world’s biggest offshore oil rig. Located in the North Atlantic over 250 kilometres east of Newfoundland, the rig went online in November 1981.
On the evening of February 14 1982, the platform was battered by a storm. By the time rescuers arrived in the early hours of February 15, all 84 crew members died either from drowning or hypothermia.
The catastrophe exposed the deadly problem of “regulatory capture”: the control of regulatory agencies by industry insiders, and the revolving door between industry and the government regulatory agencies. The very same problem existed with the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013 and exists today with the Covid-19 mass death in long-term care.
The Ocean Ranger was plagued by flawed construction, lack of safety training and equipment, lack of emergency protocols, and a failure to properly inspect and regulate the operation by government authorities.
Big Oil spun the Ocean Ranger disaster to their advantage. They blamed workers for the disaster (as they did with Lac-Mégantic), and came up with many convoluted explanations for the disaster that let them off the hook.
The goal of Big Oil was the maintenance of “self-regulation” in the quest of profits. At the same time as the Ocean Ranger disaster, they were pushing hard to end government use of PetroCanada and other methods of influencing and determining energy policy that threatened corporate interests and corporate power.
The oil companies also alienated the families of the dead with their behaviour, and used settlements with the families as a means of escaping any legal wrongdoing.
To learn more about the Ocean Ranger disaster, Lac-Mégantic, and the problem of regulatory capture and corporate power, check out these two books:
- Susan Dodd’s book “The Ocean Ranger” available at Fernwood Publishing.
- Bruce Campbell’s review of Dodd’s book in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic disaster.
- Bruce Campbell’s book “The Lac-Mégantic Rail Disaster” available at Lorimer Books.