Former VOO Captains Sue BP for Damages (WALA)

BY John Rogers

MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Nearly a year ago, when oil crept its way across the Gulf of Mexico, thousands of charter boat captains and boat owners were put out of work. They were, however, able to make a paycheck by working in the Vessels of Opportunity, or VOO, program.

One year later, some captains are still out of work, and they say it was because of the work they did for BP. So now, many are planning to sue.

Mobile law firm Cunningham Bounds, LLC has filed a 115-page lawsuit in Mobile County circuit court against BP.

The attorneys are representing 95 boat owners who worked in the VOO program. They said the oil giant did not properly compensate them for the damage they sustained while working in the gulf.

The year 2011 now is the chance to make up for lost time. Some charter boat captains are unable to return to the water, however, because they say their boats were badly damaged because of the VOO program.

In March, FOX10 told you the story of one charter boat captain whose boat has been dry-docked since September.

Paint chipped off because of the decontamination process; the hull was badly scratched because of running over boom; and the oily water damaged the engine.

In a statement that BP sent to FOX10 News, the company said it is not liable for "normal wear and tear in accordance with performing services for VOO activities."

"We don't think this is normal wear and tear," Cunningham Bounds Attorney Steve Nicholas said.

Attorneys with Cunningham Bounds are representing the VOO captains in a lawsuit against BP.

Attorneys said BP did not pay as it promised. The suit alleges the oil giant didn't entirely fulfill its commitment to pay for stand by time, or fully reimburse the captains for damages and decontamination.

"It's a triple loss. They got loss because they couldn't do their normal job, then they damage their boat doing the VOO program, and now they can't get back out there, event though the fishery is now open again," Nichols said.

BP wouldn't comment on the issue, but recently FOX10 asked BP Chief Operating Officer Mike Utsler about the pay for VOO captains.