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June 22nd, 2011

From Now On, Federal Teams Will Be Responsible for Offshore Safety Inspections

One of the factors that ultimately contributed to the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion last year was the lack of adequate inspection and oversight by the federal administration.  Currently, lone inspectors are sent for inspections of oil rigs.  That could soon change, with the federal administration announcing that from now on, teams of inspectors will be sent to these rigs.

Last year, there were just 56 inspectors in charge of inspecting all 3,500 oilrigs and platforms.  Over the years, the federal agency charged with offshore safety has stretched itself thin, with too few inspectors assigned to the task of monitoring safety in one of the deadliest workplaces in the world.

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, it has added several new inspectors, and the total number is now 79.  Soon, the agency will begin sending out teams of inspectors into the Gulf of Mexico to begin inspections of oil rigs and pumping platforms.  The agency has said that it has already begun a formal training program for these inspectors.  The agency will soon also add five more inspectors.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has been moving at a slow pace towards increased safety for offshore oil rig workers on these rigs and platforms.  To maritime lawyers, these seem like very good first steps.  There’s no doubt that we need far more inspectors.

The maritime attorneys at our firm would also like to see an elimination of the “special bonds” that exist between some inspectors and offshore drilling companies.  The agency needs to make more progress in this area.

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