Vessels of Opportunity Lawsuit: BP Broke Promises in Oil Spill Program (

By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register

MOBILE, Ala. -- Nearly 100 Gulf coast boat owners involved in the Vessels of Opportunity program sued BP PLC and others on Monday, maintaining that the oil giant did not pay them as much as it had agreed.

BP paid out more than $600 million — including $129 million in Alabama and $116 million in Mississippi — to boat owners and crew members last summer in the oil-reconnaissance program, according to data provided by the company.

But, according to the lawsuit, the company broke promises made to those involved by not paying them for stand-by time, not repairing boats, and being laggard in decontaminating boats after the program ended.

A BP spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The suit, filed by attorneys George Finkbohner III of Cunningham Bounds in Mobile and David Bagwell of Fairhope, seeks unspecified damages. It was filed Monday in Mobile County Circuit Court.

In addition to BP, Los Angeles-based Parsons Corp. and Montgomery-based Danos & Curole Staffing LLC were also named as defendants, as were several individuals who worked for the three companies.

Parsons helped manage the VOO program for BP.

According to the lawsuit, fishermen who were idled when the spill closed off large portions of the Gulf of Mexico knew that they could receive claims payments from BP for doing nothing. Therefore BP had to make a lucrative offer to get them to join the VOO program.

According to the lawsuit, boat owners were paid more than $1,000 a day to look for oil in their vessels. They had to be on call at all times, according to the lawsuit.

Boat owners said they were told several times they would be paid every day, not just when they were actually called on to work, the lawsuit said.

BP also promised to repair any damage to vessels that occurred while searching for oil, and to decontaminate the boats after it was over, the lawsuit contends.