THE multinational whose rig ran aground on the island of Lewis last week was implicated in one of the world’s worst environmental disasters, polluting the Gulf of Mexico with more than 200 million gallons of oil.

The Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded and burst into flames killing 11 workers and spilling oil into the sea for three months in 2010 was owned by Transocean, a £20 billion offshore drilling giant based in Switzerland. It also owns the rig - Transocean Winner - now stranded on the rocks by Dalmore beach on the west side of Lewis.

An investigation by the Sunday Herald has furthermore revealed that Transocean has had 20 oil and chemical leaks from its North Sea rigs in three years, breached UK health and safety law nine times since 2006 and been linked to other fatal accidents.

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The revelations have prompted calls for investigations into the company, and how its rig managed to crash into the shoreline in an area identified as “high risk” more than a decade ago. The 17,000-tonne Transocean Winner was being towed from Norway to Malta to be scrapped when it came adrift in strong winds early on Monday morning.

According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, it could have leaked up to 52 tonnes of diesel oil. There are thought to be nearly 230 tonnes left on the rig, which is being battered by heavy seas.

An expert team organised by Transocean failed to board the rig again yesterday because of poor weather, though it is hoping to use ropes to access the main deck this morning. The plan is assess the rig’s condition before working out how best to begin salvaging it – a process that is expected to take weeks.

After the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Transocean was fined £1bn in 2013 by the US Department of Justice for criminal negligence. In 2015 the company agreed to pay a further £164 million in settlement of compensation claims by businesses and local governments.

In response to a request from the Sunday Herald, the coastguard agency released its latest report on marine pollution incidents in the North Sea. It revealed that Transocean were involved in six leaks in 2014.

There was a major spill on September 13 when a blocked valve on its John Shaw rig triggered the release of 2.03 tonnes of chemicals and 1.7 tonnes of oil. The rig experienced another chemical leak in 2014, while there were four leaks from the Prospect rig.

An earlier marine pollution report shows that Transocean rigs suffered eight chemical and oil leaks in 2013, including a diesel spill at Queens Dock in Invergordon. In 2012 there were six leaks, including more than 15 tonnes of cement from the Sedco 714 rig.

Read more: Bid to winch salvage team on to grounded Lewis oil rig called off

The UK Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued Transocean with nine improvement notices for breaching safety laws over the last 10 years. The most recent, in December 2015, accused the company of failing to ensure its pipe racking system on the John Shaw rig was working properly.

In June 2015 HSE said the company had failed to ensure that contractors were not put at risk in a confined space in the mud pit room on the Sedco 704 rig. In October 2012 HSE accused Transocean of having ineffective arrangements for guarding dangerous machinery on the drill floor of the Paul B Loyd Junior rig.

The HSE also issued six other improvement notices to Transocean between 2006 and 2011 alleging various breaches of safety rules. All the improvement notices had been complied with, the HSE said.

In April 2007, eight people died when a supply boat, Bourbon Dolphin, servicing the Transocean Rather rig sank in the North Sea. A Norwegian government inquiry concluded that a series of “system failures” had led to the accident.

In June 2003, a worker was killed after an explosion on a Transocean rig in Galveston Bay, Texas. In March 2002, a man was killed in an accident aboard the Transocean Leader rig, 86 miles west of Shetland.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, accused Transocean of suffering more leaks than the CIA. “The company's record in the North Sea is a catalogue of carelessness,” he said.

“A company that performs so badly shouldn’t be welcome in Scottish waters.”

The company’s involvement in the Gulf of Mexico disaster put it into “the league table of the world’s worst oil services firms”, he claimed.

“The salvage operations in Lewis will no doubt cost the UK taxpayer millions of pounds, and Transocean and the other companies involved will need to be forced to pay this money back.”

The Green MSP for the Highland and Islands, John Finnie, accused Transocean of having a history of spills and safety breaches. “Fossil fuel multinationals have for too long cut corners, leaving local communities to pay the price,” he said.

“We must have a full investigation into this grounding, with appropriate sanctions should the operators be found failing in their duty to operate safely.”

Transocean has previously come under fire from campaigners in the US for shifting its headquarters from the Cayman Islands to Zug in Switzerland in 2008 to avoid tax - while leaving most of its staff in Houston, Texas. The Transocean Winner rig is registered in the Marshall Islands.

The Marine Conservation Society pointed out that the rig ran aground very close to an area identified as high risk in the wake of the massive spill from the Braer oil tanker around Shetland in 1993. The Gallan Head Marine Environment High Risk Area (MEHRA) off the west coast of Lewis was meant to help prevent accidents.

“Over 10 years ago, environment organisations warned that without effective management measures the long called-for MEHRAs would be pointless,” the society’s Scottish chief, Calum Duncan, told the Sunday Herald.

“The company involved and relevant government departments have to answer serious questions about why this happened off a sensitive headland, a MEHRA, in potentially difficult seas. They have let down the people and wildlife of Lewis.”

Duncan demanded to know why there had only been one towline. “What emergency response vessels were in place and had they been notified? Were any specific measures in place in the knowledge that passage would be in the vicinity of a MEHRA?”

The Scottish Government is also demanding answers from the UK government. “We are determined to do what we can to mitigate the consequences of the grounding,” said a government spokesman.

“Marine Scotland is already leading work to assess the potential impact on our precious marine environment.”

Read more: Diesel spill feared after oil rig runs aground on Isle of Lewis​

Transocean stressed that it was working closely with authorities to recover the rig as expeditiously and safely as possible. “Transocean is committed to the Scottish community and has been in business in the United Kingdom since the early 1960s,” said a company spokeswoman. “We are fully prepared to meet our responsibilities arising out of this incident.”

TABLE ONE: Marine pollution incidents involving Transocean rigs

date / rig / incident

13 September 2014 / John Shaw / 2.03 tonne chemical and 1.7 tonne oil leaks

27 June 2014 / John Shaw / 10kg chemical leak

20 June 2014 / Prospect / 870g oil leak

12 June 2014 / Prospect / 125g oil leak

3 April 2014 / Prospect / 28kg chemical leak

1 January 2014 / Prospect / 900kg chemical leak

8 November 2013 / John Shaw / 82kg chemical leak

21 October 2013 / Prospect / 20kg oil leak

26 June 2013 / Prospect / 25kg chemical leak

20 April 2013 / John Shaw / 33kg chemical leak

4 April 2013 / Prospect / 2.9 tonne chemical leak

5 March 2013 / Prospect / 200kg chemical leak

4 March 2013 / Sedco 712 / 5 litre oil spill

7 January 2013 / John Shaw / 209kg chemical leak

30 November 2012 / Sedco 714 / 15.5 tonne cement leak

14 October 2012 / Prospect / 645g oil leak

4 September 2012 / Paul B Loyd Jnr / 2.9 tonne chemical leak

5 August 2012 / Prospect / 13kg oil leak

10 July 2012 / Prospect / 750g oil leak

14 January 2012 / Sedco 714 / 3 tonne drilling fluid leak

source: Maritime and Coastguard Agency

TABLE TWO: Health and safety breaches by Transocean

year / number of breaches

2006 / 1

2007 / 2

2010/ 1

2011/ 2

2012 / 1

2015 / 2

source: Health and Safety Executive