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No cheap way out for Transocean

Offshore drilling specialist Transocean cannot limit its liability in the Gulf of Mexico oil slick disaster as the company with headquarters in Zug had tried to do.

A federal judge in Houston, Texas, ruled on Monday that the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded and sank cannot use a 159-year-old maritime law to cap its damages at $27 million (SFr30.8 million).

The Limitation of Liability Act of 1851 states that a vessel owner is only liable for the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo as long as the owner can prove that he had no knowledge of negligence in the accident.

The so-called “Titanic-clause” was used effectively in 1912, when the owners of the Titanic tried to limit their liability after the ship’s accident.

On April 20, an explosion and fire killed 11 crew members and destroyed the Transocean-owned semisubmersible Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, positioned near Venice, Louisiana, in water nearly 5,000 feet deep.

The rig, one of the largest and most sophisticated in the world, had been under contract to BP, the London-based oil giant, since September 2007.

The Deepwater Horizon accident spewed thousands of barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico, and experts said it could become the largest oil spill in history.

The group’s Chief Executive Tony Hayward is expected to face harsh questioning at a congressional hearing on Thursday. and agencies

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