BP feels fishermen's fury over oil spill

14th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

BP faced protests from angry fishermen and disgruntled shareholders on Thursday at its first annual general meeting since the devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The meeting took place almost a year since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and caused nearly five million barrels of oil to gush into the sea.

Diane Wilson, a fisherwoman from the Texas Gulf Coast smeared her face with oil as she protested outside the AGM venue in London.

"My community is dead. We've worked five generations there and now we've got a dead community. I'm angry, I've been angry a long time."

Security guards refused her entry to the meeting, even though she is a BP shareholder.

Around 100 protesters turned up to display their anger at BP's actions, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico fishermen to representatives of indigenous communities angry at BP's involvement in tar sands extraction in northern Canada.

BP has tried to move on from the disaster after agreeing to share responsibility with the owners of the stricken rig and is selling $30 billion (21 billion euros) of assets to help pay the clean-up bill and compensate fisherman.

But Byron Encalade, president of the Louisiana Oystermen Association, said he had crossed the Atlantic to come to London to show his anger at delays to compensation payments.

"We were the first to feel the impact of the oil spill. I'm here because the claims process has failed the fishing communities along the coast," he said.

"We'd just like to know where all this money went. We should have got it."

He said he wanted to see a commitment from BP that the tens of thousands of delayed and unpaid claims would be investigated.

BP's fortunes were ravaged by the spill, widely acknowledged to be the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. Billions of dollars were knocked off the company's value as oil spewed for 87 days before the well was capped.

Hundreds of miles of fragile coastal wetlands and beaches were contaminated, a third of the Gulf's rich US waters were closed to fishing, and the economic costs have reached into the tens of billions of dollars.

BP reported its first annual loss in almost two decades as a result of the disaster and its share price remains 30 percent below its level before the spill.

The oil giant's fortunes are instrumental to the fortunes of millions of British investors because most British pension funds invest in the company.

Several key shareholders, including the US pension fund Calpers, have said they will vote against the annual report to be submitted at the AGM, partly in protest at the high levels of pay for BP executives despite the disaster.

Bob Dudley, the American who took over as chief executive from the beleaguered Tony Hayward in October, also faces calls to defend a planned deal to explore for oil in the Arctic with Russian giants Rosneft.

The Rosneft issue has been put off until May after BP on Thursday said it and the Russian company had agreed to extend a deadline to complete a $16 billion share swap that is key to the deal, which has also sparked environmental concerns.

© 2011 AFP

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