It’s difficult to sort out the problems at the end of the Homer Spit, on the jack-up rig Endeavour. One big international drilling manager, Archer Drilling, is allegedly terminated for lack of performance by another international oil-gas concern. Archer is based in Oklahoma City while Buccaneer’s American offices are in Houston. Local plumbers, pipe-fitters and welders living in Homer remain unpaid. Now Houston steps in and assures the community the bills will be paid.
As they should be. The good news in the debt matter is that the City of Homer’s dockage fees are mostly paid up – at least $360,000 and counting. Not only is the Endeavour charged a fee, but the tugs standing by as anchors also were assessed fees.
Rumors have been afloat since the rig arrived. Anyone with a clue suspected things weren’t right – work undone on the rig that officials said should have been completed before its trip to Homer. This resulted in confusion over how long the steps of outfitting it for its icy winter work station would take and raised questions about why the work didn’t get done in Singapore. New dates got set for possibly leaving, while local environmental groups pointed out spill prevention plan permits weren’t yet obtained nor would they be while the necessary public comment periods moved toward deadlines.
If Homer residents were left shaking their heads, it’s no wonder.
Where’s the lesson in all this? We could start with the basic premise of communication. Alaskans know all too well the mixups that occur with shipping. Equipment and goods don’t make it to our far flung state on time. We know that outsiders, lacking experience, often feel unprepared for winter conditions. Seasoned hikers and mountain climbers arrive in this unforgiving climate unprepared and caught unawares in tragic wilderness mishaps. To see a company new to Alaska underestimate its climate conditions and struggling to catch up is a plight that might earn our sympathy, not just our distain. We tend to understand matters like proper insulation in walls to shield against the cold.
Moving forward now, Buccaneer installed Spartan Offshore as the new drilling manager after taking the job away from Archer. That company we also know precious little about. These are new days in Cook Inlet – a lot of strangers are moved in: Apache, Furie, Hilcorp. Other names disappeared from the field before we could get to know them: Escopeda, which brought in the first jack-up rig, Spartan 151 vanished from view, but remains an investor in Furie Operating Alaska. Armstrong Oil and Gas, based out of Denver, quietly drills and adds to Southcentral’s dwindling gas supplies from its wells on the North Fork Road. It also remains something of a stranger whose track record over time is looking better.
Now with Buccaneer’s plans to be a familiar name and employer in these parts, after all these months, how much do we know about them? Company officials have moved fast into the area, absorbing 10 leases out East End Road a little over a year ago, with hardly enough time to schedule public talks with the neighbors in the area. The company has also had troubled relations with its contractor engaged to do the hiring on the rig and to oversee retrofitting work, but we haven’t yet heard Archer’s side of the story. There could be a lot more involved – and we may not hear all the facts.
And, we’ve seen that Buccaneer is squeamish about meeting the public, preferring to answer questions through a New York-based public relations firm.
Help us out here, Buccaneer. Homer is an Alaskan town, dealing with international corporations based far away in Oklahoma City, Houston, New York and Denver. It reminds us of the days when Seattle owned Alaska canneries and the commercial fishing operations. If Seattle monopolies didn’t want to talk to Ketchikan, Juneau and Seward, no one could do much about it. But once statehood was enacted, Alaskans found they held a voice. In a loud message through the effective tools of legislation, they were able to kick out the monopolies and cripple their practices.
While the bills get sorted out in the weeks ahead, we hope Buccaneer will take some hard-earned lessons to heart. Keep communication lines open with residents of the Lower Kenai Peninsula. It was a good move to break the silence on the question of who was or wasn’t paid by Archer Drilling, confirming rumors that left Homer residents suspicious and distrustful. As you move ahead supplying important natural gas for Southcentral Alaska, keep in mind that silence or avoidance only makes matters worse.
A new day is ahead – let’s see if you can do better.
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