NEW ORLEANS — The chief executive of the company that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig acknowledged in court Tuesday that his crew should have done more to avert the 2010 oil well blowout that left 11 dead and soiled hundreds of miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
"Do I wish the crew had done more? Absolutely," said Steven Newman, Transocean's chief executive. "We acknowledged we should have done more."
Newman's measured and partial acknowledgment of accountability goes to the heart of the U.S. District Court trial, now in its fourth week, to assign responsibility for the disaster.
He said that while his company was responsible for a "narrow slice" of the drilling operations, including providing pressure tests that produced faulty readings shortly before the explosion, it was the oil company BP that "has everything under its umbrella."
The trial bundles suits brought by the Justice Department, several state governments, private businesses and individual claimants against BP and its contractors. Lawyers for tens of thousands of people and businesses seeking redress for damages claim that BP, Transocean and Halliburton are grossly negligent for mismanaging safety procedures.
The Justice Department is arguing that BP was grossly negligent and ultimately responsible for a series of mistakes because it designed the well, selected the contractors and managed the drilling operation. While BP has acknowledged mistakes, it says its contractors also made serious errors that caused the blowout.
Because of its contracts with BP, Transocean is protected from most spill costs, aside from punitive damages, even if they are all found to have been grossly negligent. Transocean has already pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor criminal charge of violating the Clean Water Act and has agreed to pay $400 million in criminal penalties. It also agreed to $1 billion in civil settlements.