Saturday, April 23, 2011

Coast Guard Hammers Transocean Over Gulf Oil Spill

The Coast Guard released a 288-page report on Earth Day that slams Transocean for what it described as poor safety practices that exacerbated the disaster after BP’s Macondo well blew out and the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon sank in the Gulf of Mexico.  The report noted that Transocean had “serious safety management system failures and a poor safety culture manifested in continued maintenance deficiencies, training and knowledge gaps, and emergency preparedness weaknesses.”

The Coast Guard concluded that Transocean allowed gas alarms and shutdown systems to be bypassed; failed to maintain electricity systems that may have ignited the gas once it leaked from the well; and did not adequately train personnel for how to deal with a gusher. The report takes no action but offers dozens of safety-improvement recommendations for consideration by the Coast Guard commandant.

The long-awaited report is the Coast Guard’s half of the investigation known as the Marine Board of Inquiry, a joint probe by the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. The bureau is working on its report and is expected to be finished in late July.
The Deepwater Horizon, owned by Swiss-based Transocean, operator of the world’s largest fleet of deepwater drilling rigs as part of a fleet of 139 rigs around the world and leased by BP at a cost of half a million dollars a day, was largely staffed by Transocean employees.

Among those on the bridge in that key moment were two BP executives and two Transocean executives who had flown to the Deepwater Horizon that afternoon. A recurring issue during the probe has been whether the presence of the executives distracted the top managers on the rig. The report said their presence “may have diverted the attention of the offshore installation manager and senior toolpusher from the developing well conditions, limited their interactions with the on-watch drilling crew, and led to their failure to follow the emergency evacuation procedures.”

“The current lifeboat design and testing requirements do not adequately ensure the safe loading of a stretcher or permit adequate seating to accommodate the physical build of the average offshore worker today,” the report said.  (Wash Post, 4/22/2011)

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