imately 76 active MODUs and 42 floating production
facilities in its jurisdiction.
“Many of these inspections will require multiple days
to complete, and the number of inspections is expected
to increase as offshore activities expand,” Nichols said.
MODU inspections include, among other things,
evaluating material condition and operational readi-
ness. General inspection categories are personnel safe-
ty, including lifesaving, fire protection and firefighting
equipment; training and procedures; structural integri-
ty; security and environmental protection
The Coast Guard shares regulatory oversight of
floating facilities and MODUs with BSEE. Essentially,
all onboard systems for oil and gas exploration and
production are regulated by BSEE.
The service also is responsible for oil spill preparedness and response, and conducts research related to
these mission requirements. It is responsible for security regulations on OCS installations, as specified under
the Maritime Transportation Security Act, and has
select duties for regulating deepwater ports as enumerated in the Deepwater Port Act.
Since the Deepwater Horizon spill, the service has ini-
tiated risk-based targeting of foreign MODUs, and placed
additional focus on updating the regulations. The Deep-
water Horizon rig that exploded April 20, 2010, off the
coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and spilling 4. 9
million barrels of oil until it was capped three months
later, was owned by the Swiss company Transocean and
operated by BP, formerly British Petroleum.
In the future, Nichols said his main concerns are
ensuring federal regulations are keeping pace with the
rapidly advancing technology, training and retaining
Coast Guard personnel with advanced skill sets, and
maintaining sufficient regulatory resources to handle
expected growth in the offshore oil and gas industry.
Oil drilling is not limited to warm waters in the Gulf
of Mexico. In Alaska, Shell Oil Inc. began drilling
exploratory wells last year in the hopes of tapping the
Arctic’s vast potential for oil.
The service spent the summer, as part of Operation
Arctic Shield 2013, preparing for Arctic activity driven
by the oil industry’s planned drilling operations in the
Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.
Part of that planning included the testing and evaluating oil spill detection and recovery technologies in
the Arctic Ocean by the Coast Guard Research and
Development Center. Various unmanned aerial systems, an unmanned underwater vehicle and a remotely operated vehicle were used to search for simulated
The service is the nation’s lead federal agency for
ensuring maritime safety and security in the Arctic,
and one official said the Coast Guard will perform its
statutory missions to ensure the Arctic remains a safe,
secure and environmentally protected region.
Lt. Veronica Colbath, District 17’s external affairs
officer, expects a substantial increase in maritime activities in the Arctic as access to the region expands.
Colbath, whose district is headquartered in Juneau,
Alaska, said technological developments have enabled
private industry to conduct natural resource exploration in regions that were previously inaccessible.
Melting polar ice also has opened more areas of the
region to maritime transit and resource exploration.
“The Coast Guard’s role in this environment will be
to protect lives and property at sea and enforce laws
and regulations,” she added.
In August, while speaking before a Senate Appropriations homeland security subcommittee field hearing at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Coast
Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp Jr. said the
service is leading the U.S. delegation to the Arctic
Council Oil Spill Task Force that is developing an International Instrument on Arctic Marine Oil Pollution
Preparedness and Response.
“Given the scope of these challenges, we have been
conducting oil-in-ice research since 2010 to evaluate,
develop and test equipment and techniques that can be
used to successfully track and recover oil in any ice-filled waters, and have explored promising technologies, such as heated skimmers,” Papp said. n
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hickory deploys the
boom during Spilled Oil Recovery System (SORS) training
in Kachemak Bay near Homer, Alaska, Aug. 28. Coast
Guard crews train with SORS equipment annually in order
to prepare for hazardous material spills.