NEW ORLEANS - The owner of an offshore oilfield boat that overturned off Louisiana plans to use $25 million in insurance on the vessel to pay down part of the Texas company's debts.
Attorneys for families of men killed when the Seacor Power flipped in April are worried that could leave less money available to compensate for their loss, The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported.
Six men were rescued, six bodies were found and seven men are missing and presumed dead after the wreck.
The Seacor Power was a "lift boat" equipped with legs that can be lowered to the ocean floor, lifting the vessel itself above the water as a temporary work platform. It overturned as the crew was lowering those legs and trying to turn into heavy winds, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
Seacor Marine Holdings Inc., of Houston, described its plan in securities filings last week, the newspaper reported. The agreement with lender J.P. Morgan Chase Inc, would use hull and machinery insurance on the boat to help pay two $25 million installments and settle a debt of more than $117 million.
Ian Taylor, an attorney whose firm represents some survivors and victims' families, said it will seek to block the move and make a claim itself on the proceeds from hull and machinery insurance.
That law firm's clients are among people who have filed at least 14 lawsuits against Seacor Marine, its subsidiaries, and Talos Energy, owner of the oil platform where the Seacor Power was heading.
Seacor Marine has said it expects to pay about $15 million to the salvage company that looked for survivors and lately has been assessing damage and making plans to retrieve the wreckage, the newspaper reported.
The Coast Guard said last week that salvage crews would have to cut the boat apart, with a submersible barge sunk under each section as it was cut away, then refloated to bring the section to shore.
The Coast Guard referred a call for an update on Friday to Seacor, which did not immediately respond to a query from The Associated Press.
The company has filed a federal suit to limit death and personal injury damages to a total of $5.7 million, under an 1851 maritime law covering circumstances which the owner could not have foreseen nor taken precaution against.
Taylor, of Lewis Kullman Sterbcow and Abramson, said the firm will challenge Seacor Marine's attempt to limit liability, and will ask the court to add the $25 million insurance to the company's liability fund.
Frank Spagnoletti, an attorney who has filed several lawsuits in Texas, said Seacor's move to shield the insurance payment will not play well with survivors.
"They will find it offensive that the company has moved to limit their liability to $5.7 million but taken care of their own financial situation before consideration of the victims and loved ones of the dead," he said.
The company declined to comment further than the statement to investors.
In that statement, John Gellert, Seacor Marine's CEO, said "We remain focused on our response to the Seacor Power incident and expect to complete the recovery efforts in July."
"We continue to grieve for our crew members, partners and the loved ones of those who were lost," he added.