Regulatory Neglect & Its Consequences: An Open Letter

Below is a copy of an “open letter” that I sent via email on November 12, 2019. Among the recipients are several members of the the U.S. Coast Guard including Admiral Paul Thomas, Admiral John Nadeau, Admiral Richard Timme, Captain Joshua Reynolds and Captain Scott Kelly. Also included is retired U.S. Coast Guard Captain U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder and his Office as well as individuals from the Liberian Registry. I also included Noble Drilling’s outside legal counsel: John Cox and Herbert Ray. In addition, I included the two court appointed “independent” and “3rd party auditors” Jay Webster and Kim Estes. The content of this “open letter” and the content of the attached videos are self-explanatory.

There are two video links attached with this post. Click on the highlighted/underlined link and then a “vimeo” link will pop up. Click on the vimeo link and the video will be able to play. To date, I have received no response from any of the individuals addressed or copied on this email.

To: bryan.schroder@usdoj.gov, “Steward, Aunnie (USAAK)” <Aunnie.Steward@usdoj.gov>, “Skrocki, Steven (USAAK)” <Steven.Skrocki@usdoj.gov>, Joshua Reynolds <joshua.d.reynolds@uscg.mil>, paul.f.thomas@uscg.mil, Alphard Romero <AROMERO@liscr.com>, dmuir@liscr.com, dpascoe@liscr.com, tkeegan@liscr.com, safety@liscr.com, david.pereira@sabinesurveyors.com, “Mr. Jay Webster” <jay.webster@sabinesurveyors.com>, kim@estesgroupllc.com, John.Cox@jcoxlawfirm.com, hray@schwabe.com 

Cc: “Mr. Adam Carron – Special Agent” <adam.j.carron@uscg.mil>, John Cashman <John.Cashman@usdoj.gov>, Kenneth Nelson <kenneth.nelson3@usdoj.gov>, CWO Todd Michael <Todd.M.Michael@uscg.mil>, Brian Khey <Brian.R.Khey@uscg.mil>, scott.j.kelly@uscg.mil, john.cashman@uscg.mil, john.nadeau@uscg.mil, john.p.nadeau@uscg.mil, Kevin Kohlmann <kevin.kohlmann@dot.gov>, richard.v.timme@uscg.mil, HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil, HQS-DG-NMCProceedingsDist@uscg.mil

This “open letter” is directed to the multiple individuals addressed (not “Cc’d”). In 2016 and 2017, during various times, I came forward to the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska and the Liberian Flag-State. Specifically, I came forward and provided evidence of the continued unsafe, dangerous and reckless conduct of convicted felon Noble Drilling. However, this evidence was ignored and/or withheld and, as a result, Noble Drilling and their management were not held accountable or responsible for their illegal behavior. Had this evidence been used, investigated and action taken the situation contained in the attached video(s) may very well have been avoided. 

The drillship “Noble Don Taylor,”IMO #9618915, had a “drop” of a length of riser that fell onto their rig floor. This joint of riser was approximately 75 feet long and weighed approximately 35,000 pounds. This drop nearly killed a crew member who, literally, ran for his life and got out of harms way. Here is a video of the incident, which speaks for itself. Also, attached is the Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) report. This incident occurred in January 2019 approximately ten months after Noble Drilling was granted “early” termination of criminal probation from case # 3:2014-cr-00114-RRB. In May 2017, I came forward and provided evidence of Noble Drilling’s continued illegal, unsafe and dangerous behavior. The evidence I provided was evidence from my whistleblower/retaliatory termination as a Captain from Noble Drilling and my subsequent litigation against them. However, despite all the evidence I provided, none of you did anything. To be clear, it is not what you did but the gross negligence in what you didn’t do that has enabled the continued reckless, dangerous and non-existent “safety culture” that is Noble Drilling and the result of which is contained in the video(s). Miraculously, the crew member in the video was not killed or hurt………. but what if he had been? Safety at sea is not about luck. It is about prevention and mitigating risk and instilling a positive safety culture that consists of both vessel management and shore-based management. Safety at sea also relies on regulatory authorities and law enforcement authorities doing their jobs and holding those corporations and their management accountable who continually operate dangerously and without any regard for safety or the law. 

Noble Drilling’s shore based manager of the drillship “Noble Don Taylor” is/was Drilling Superintendent John Hawkins. This is the same John Hawkins who was previously the shore-based manager of the vessel “Noble Discoverer” which, in December 2014, was the vessel at the epicenter of Noble Drilling pleading guilty to eight felony charges related to safety and oil pollution violations as well as major non-conformities with their safety management system, case # 3:2014-cr-00114-RRB. This is also the same John Hawkins who, in retaliation, terminated my employment as Captain of the vessel “Noble Danny Adkins” on March 31, 2015, eleven days after I reported illegal and felonious safety violations to Noble Drilling’s “Alternate Designated Person Ashore” (ADPA), Vaclav “Jed” Jedlicka. As I would come to learn, the illegal and felonious safety violations I reported aboard the “Noble Danny Adkins” took place with the full knowledge and approval of Drilling Superintendent John Hawkins, Captain Daniel Askins, ADPA Vaclav “Jed” Jedlicka himself as well as other senior management of Noble Drilling including VP/Chief Compliance Officer James Sanislow. U.S. Attorney Schroder, you and your Office are well acquainted with James Sanislow as he was an attorney of record for Noble Drilling in their litigation with the United States. These illegal safety violations included false logbook entries as it pertained to lifesaving equipment and the directive that was agreed upon between shore-based and vessel based management to deceive and not be forthright and honest with U.S. Coast Guard Inspectors. One could argue that ADPA Vaclav “Jed” Jedlicka, Drilling Superintendent John Hawkins, Captain Daniel Askins and, indirectly James Sanislow, conspired and obstructed justice when they made this decision. For the record, this directive of deceit with the U.S. Coast Guard was contained in writing (in an email) between John Hawkins and Daniel Askins the night before and the morning of the U.S. Coast Guard Inspection. I provided you and your Office and copy of this. Not exactly the behavior one would expect from a convicted felon who just commenced their term of probation is it, Mr. Schroder? U.S. Attorney Schroder, you are a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and were a former Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard for twenty-four years. I would think that you, of all people, would find this conduct appalling……especially, considering that Noble Drilling had just commenced probation. Noble Drilling and their lawyers (John Cox, Herbert Ray & James Sanislow) knowingly, willingly and maliciously lied to you and the Court but that didn’t matter. Despite all of this evidence that I provided, Noble Drilling was still given a free pass by all of you. The U.S. Coast Guard’s 8th District came up with excuses as to why they couldn’t and wouldn’t get involved. Eventually, I was told that the situation I reported regarding Noble Drilling was too “politically sensitive” and that they were given an order to “stand down.” Evidently, in the eyes of the U.S. Coast Guard, “political sensitivity” is more important than keeping mariners safe from dangerous and irresponsible corporate management cultures such as Noble Drilling. Clearly, there is/was a continued pattern of illegal and unsafe behavior as it pertains to the “management” of Drilling Superintendent John Hawkins and Noble Drilling management as a whole. Even after commencing probation there was no change to the behavior of John Hawkins or Noble Drilling management. Given Mr. Hawkins’ tenure of employment of over two decades with Noble Drilling and the continued lengths that senior management will go to in an effort to protect him, it is quite clear that his conduct and behavior is approved, condoned and encouraged by Noble Drilling’s senior management. Not even one year after Noble Drilling was granted “early” termination of probation, a vessel managed by Drilling Superintendent John Hawkins has a “drop” incident that nearly kills a crew member. The fact that this incident occurred on a vessel “managed” by John Hawkins is not a coincidence. Given the history of John Hawkins and Noble Drilling this doesn’t come as a surprise or a shock. This is the culture of Noble Drilling; however, this irresponsible and dangerous culture has been enabled and, thus, allowed to continue because none of you, i.e. the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Justice and the Liberian Flag State, held them accountable or responsible for their conduct. The end result of this lack of accountability and consequences is contained in the video(s). 

It is my understanding that John Hawkins is now employed as a “consultant” at Pacific Drilling. Daniel Askins is employed as a “marine technical manager” at Pacific Drilling. The CEO of Pacific Drilling is Bernie Wolford. Prior to joining Pacific Drilling, Bernie Wolford was the President/VP of Operations for Noble Drilling. Several of you on this email know Mr. Wolford as it was his signature as the Noble Drilling corporate representative on the December 8, 2014 plea agreement with the Department of Justice. Clearly, the dysfunctional and dangerous safety culture of Noble Drilling and the “management” of John Hawkins was acceptable to Mr. Wolford as John Hawkins remained employed at Noble Drilling for the remainder of Mr. Wolford’s tenure there. Presently, John Hawkins and Dan Askins are now in his employ. What does that say about the safety culture of Pacific Drilling? Most would agree that the culture of any organization starts at the top.

In conclusion, I can’t help but think that if any of the law enforcement or regulatory authorities took action after I made you aware of Noble Drillings conduct then, perhaps, the situation in the video could have been avoided. It is very fortunate that the crew member in that video was not killed or injured. In the hypothetical, what if that crew member were not so lucky? What if he was killed or seriously injured? How would all of you explain your negligent conduct? You were all made aware, with hard evidence, that Noble Drilling was still operating dangerously even after commencing probation yet you all did nothing. I would suggest you think about how you would explain your grossly negligent and irresponsible conduct to the family and loved ones of that crew member and, no doubt, their attorneys. They will want answers as to how the regulatory and law enforcement agencies that are entrusted to regulate and make the industry safe completely failed. It is very clear as to what happened here and, quite frankly and in my opinion, all of you should be ashamed of yourselves for looking the other way and doing nothing. Perhaps this video will give pause to think twice the next time a back-room deal is made with a convicted felon or to play politics or pander to a corporate entity as opposed to prioritizing the safety of the mariner. Had that crew member been killed or seriously injured you would all, most certainly, have blood on your hands.

Thank you for taking the time to read and view this post. As always, if there are any questions or comments regarding the content of this post please feel free to contact me via phone or email.

Captain Jeffrey B. Hagopian

Email: jbhagop@yahoo.com

Cell: 978-764-3908

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