Marshall Islands Admits Error In Deepwater Horizon Manning

During yesterday’s deepwater investigation hearings a document was released by the Marshal Islands, flag state of the Deepwater Horizon, regarding the rig’s designation for purposes of meeting minimum safe manning requirements. The letter states the following (in part):

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) Classified and certified the DEEPWATER HORIZON as a A1, Column Stabilized Drilling Unit, AMS, ACCU, DPS-3 (the highest rating for dynamically positioned vessels), Self-propelled MODU which was designed, built delivered and confirmed as such in a written affidavit issued to the Administration in preparation for registration in the Marshall Islands. The Minimum Safe Manning Certificate (MSMC) application submitted by Transocean to the Administration also identified it as such.

During the course of registration in December 2004, and, as a result of a clerical error, the Maritime Administrator used the wrong MSMC template resulting in the issuance of an MSMC for a Self-Propelled MODU instead of a DPV Unit…

It’s clear that the Marshall Islands has some of the strictest requirements of any flag state when it comes to the manning of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units and the standards to which they hold Transocean rigs. Further, the manning requirements of the Marshall Islands are higher than that of Panama, the Deepwater Horizon’s original flag state. What remains unclear is if Transocean actually followed the requirements of a DPV designation.

According to Marine Notice 7-038-2 the primary difference in the manning of a Self-Propelled MODU, one that is anchored or otherwise fixed at location but can depart under their own power, and that of a Dynamically Positioned Vessel is the need for a full compliment of licensed marine engineers at all times regardless of the activities being performed below the derrick. But it remains unclear if the Transocean personnel working in the Horizon’s engine room where, in fact, licensed engineers. In a statement made to gCaptain a representative for the Marshall Islands expressed the registries commitment to manning MODU with licensed engineers and offered the following statement:

For the entire time the Deepwater Horizon was registered with The Marshall Islands their minimum safe manning certificate met or exceeded national & international standards for both modus and dynamically positioned vessels and, as far as the registry is aware, Transocean always met or exceeded those levels.

The primary question now is whether Transocean will turn to the Global SantaFe standard of providing a full compliment of licensed marine engineers to each rig or will continues its practice of employing non-licensed personnel as watchstanders aboard their MODUs registered with different flag states.