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April 8th, 2011

UK Lawmakers Are Concerned about Offshore Industry’s Ability to Cope with Possible Maritime Spill

The Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year has raised concerns among maritime lawyers about a similar explosion in other parts of the world.  In the UK, concerns have been raised by lawmakers, who don’t believe that the offshore industry in that country would be able to cope with a similar maritime and environmental disaster.

According to the UK Parliament Energy and Climate Change Committee, it is concerned that the offshore and gas drilling industry is only capable of responding to disasters, and not anticipating worst-case scenarios and planning for these.  According to the committee, it has serious doubts about the oil and gas industry’s ability to respond appropriately to any spill in the harsh environment of the Atlantic.  Further, the Committee has also agreed that the $250 million liability cap imposed by the Offshore Pollution Liability Association is insufficient to meet the considerable expenses that would arise out of any offshore disaster and spill.

The committee is recommending that offshore crew members have the ability to stop operations without waiting for any permission from on shore.  The committee is also advising that the government require well blowout preventers to be equipped with two blind shear rams in order to prevent the kind of blowout that caused the BP explosion last year.

A technical investigation into the oil rig explosion last month seemed to indicate that technical problems with the blowout preventer caused the tragedy.  The investigation also cast doubts on the ability of blowout preventers to prevent tragedies like these.  The US offshore oil and gas drilling industry is likely to be under pressure from now on to consider changes to the design of blowout preventers to avoid a repeat of the Gulf of Mexico explosion.  Other countries are likely to follow suit.

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