WASHINGTON – To complement its existing safety inspection regime for foreign-flagged vessels operating in U.S. waters, the U.S. Coast Guard Friday announced an additional layer of risk-based safety oversight for mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) as part of an ongoing review of marine safety policies following the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, fire, and subsequent oil spill.
Currently, U.S.- and foreign-flagged MODUs operating in U.S. waters undergo annual examinations to verify compliance with domestic laws, regulations and international conventions – ensuring that a vessel’s major systems are in compliance and that crew training and performance, such as lifesaving and firefighting drills, meet all applicable standards.
When an examination reveals questionable equipment, systems, or crew competency issues onboard a MODU, the Coast Guard expands the examination as necessary to determine whether a deficiency exists, a process that may require additional tests, inspections or crew drills deemed necessary at the discretion of Coast Guard inspectors. The Coast Guard documents any deficiencies and mandates they be corrected; depending on the severity of the deficiencies, the Coast Guard may curtail vessel operations as appropriate until the deficiencies are corrected.
With today’s announcement, Coast Guard marine inspectors will add an additional, risk-based layer of inspection for foreign-flagged MODUs operating on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf –determine the risk they pose by examining accident history, past discrepancies, flag state performance and classification society performance to identify those vessels requiring additional oversight. Risk based targeting allows for more frequent examinations of the highest risk MODUs and efficient use of Coast Guard resources.
“We continue to work to increase the level of safety oversight on the outer continental shelf and find ways to better prevent an event like we saw on board the Deepwater Horizon last year,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Cook, director of Prevention Policy for the U.S. Coast Guard. “This additional, risk-based inspection process – coupled with the inspection program already in place – will ensure that flag states, owners, operators and other stakeholders are held accountable for the operations and conditions on board their MODUs.”
The new system is based on a current Coast Guard safety and environmental protection targeting matrix that has been successful at identifying high-risk foreign vessels of all kinds for more than 10 years. In 2010, the Coast Guard screened 76,372 foreign vessel arrivals and conducted more than 9,900 examinations to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s ports and waterways.
The policy letter outlining the new risk-based inspection program can be viewed here.