I’ve been paying pretty close attention to the long-running BP disaster. As a PR professional, most of my reactions to the spill boil (or refine) down to the following: Better them than me. Still, while I am mindful of the vast human and environmental toll of the disaster, I am not without sympathy. Or free advice. Stand by for the latter.
What’s with the oil industry’s ship names? The “Discoverer Enterprise” I kind of get, if only because as a Star Trek fan since childhood I cut a certain amount of slack to any ship named “Enterprise”. But the “Q4000″? The “Helix Producer”? I presume that these names are supposed to suggest technology and intrepidity, but in the current circumstances they also suggest, “Greetings, Earth creatures!” The oil industry needs to stop christening its ships like they were commissioned by Galactus or launched to fight Godzilla. Remember the “Super X”? If you do, give yourself a nerd-biscuit.
Given the amount of coverage these ships are getting, there’s an image burnishing opportunity here. Short of selling the naming rights for cash to cover the cleanup costs (eg. the Gillette Q4000), I suggest that BP and Transocean rechristen the “Q4000″ the “Fluffy Bunny” and the “Helix Producer” the “Fairies and Unicorns.” Let’s conduct a small experiment and see how that might affect the press coverage, using a paragraph from today’s New York Times article on the spill:
The flaring came from a drill rig, the Q4000, and from the Helix Producer, which had just started operating Monday. The Helix Producer should be able to collect up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day when it reaches full capacity. Currently, Mr. Wells said, it is at about 12,500 barrels a day. The Q4000 is burning about 8,000 barrels of oil a day.
The flaring came from a drill rig, the Fluffy Bunny, and from the Fairies and Unicorns, which had just started operating Monday. The Fairies and Unicorns should be able to collect up to 25,000 barrels of oil a day when it reaches full capacity. Currently, Mr. Wells said, it is at about 12,500 barrels a day. The Fluffy Bunny is burning about 8,000 barrels of oil a day.
See? Don’t you feel better about the spill already? I certainly do. If nothing else, I have the urge to eat a lollipop. Sure, some roughneck types might object to working on ships with wuss names, but they’ll get over it. And it still doesn’t stop them from flaring an apocalyptic, six-story hellfire annulus off the side of the ship, as the Q4000 Fluffy Bunny is currently doing. Eat that, Motörhead.
Also, let’s hear it once again for Wikipedia, advancing the frontiers of human knowledge with 1200 words on the Super-X series of Godzilla-fighting aircraft (linked above). This article should be read just to appreciate the earnest, deadpan prose. Wikipedia does, however, chide the authors for not citing any references or sources, thus implying that Godzilla scholarship as a field is still academically wanting.
Photo from Greenpeace’s oil spill Flickr set.