U.S. COAST GUARD
In the wake of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, federal agencies, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, charged with governing offshore
oil drilling have been re-examining, updating and
improving regulations and inspection policies to keep
pace with new oil exploration technologies and better
protect against spills of that nature in the future.
In April, the Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety
and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which operates under the Department of the Interior, agreed to a
memorandum of understanding (MOU) that established a process to determine areas relevant to safety
and environmental management within their jurisdictions where joint policy or guidance is needed. The
MOU also aimed to ensure that any future Outer
Continental Shelf (OCS) and environmental management regulations do not place inconsistent requirements on industry, and establishes a process to develop
joint policy and guidance.
“As technology advances and lessons are learned from
existing systems, it is important to reflect best practices
through regulations to ensure that OCS operations are
being performed by the safest means possible,” said Capt.
David Nichols, chief of the Eighth
Coast Guard District OCS Division.
The BSEE works closely with
the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the
Environmental Protection Agency,
to promote safety, protect the environment and conserve resources
offshore through regulatory oversight and enforcement, according
to its website. The bureau’s Offshore Regulatory Program develops standards and regulations for
the exploration and development
of offshore oil and natural gas on
the OCS. Its Oil Spill Response
division develops standards and
guidelines for offshore operators’
Oil Spill Response Plans to ensure compliance with
regulatory requirements and coordination of oil spill
The Coast Guard and BSEE share responsibility for
regulations that require industry to implement systematic ways of managing safety and environmental protection on OCS with respect to oil and natural gas operations. The agencies’ shared regulatory goal is for all par-ties involved in OCS operations to develop a comprehensive approach to safety and environmental management that provides for the necessary organizational
structures, systems of accountability and commitments
to continual improvement, according to the MOU.
The Coast Guard completes annual inspections on
each floating oil production facility and mobile offshore
drilling unit (MODU) operating on the U.S. OCS. This
typically results in 200 to 250 inspections offshore per
year. Additionally, the service receives a number of
requests to conduct unscheduled inspections to follow
up on things such as the equipment repairs that were
noted in previous inspections.
The Eighth Coast Guard District, headquartered in
New Orleans and encompassing 26 states, has approx-
Coast Guard beefs up drilling, inspection policies
to keep pace with offshore oil exploration
By JOHN C. MARCARIO, Associate Editor
The U.S. Coast Guard has issued a fresh set of regulations and
policies for companies involved in offshore oil drilling.
n The Coast Guard completes an annual inspection on each
floating production facility and mobile offshore drilling unit
(MODU) operating on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.
n The service conducts 200 to 250 annual offshore inspections
n The Coast Guard shares regulatory oversight of floating facilities and MODUs with the Bureau of Safety and Environmental