The United States Coast Guard has completed investigations of violations on board a Royal Dutch Shell drill ship off the coast of Alaska, and has handed over its findings to the Department Of Justice. The investigation has found numerous safety violations on the Noble Discoverer.
The inspections came to light only after the drilling season, when the Noble Discoverer was docked at Seward in Alaska. According to the Coast Guard report, it found a total of 16 violations on the Noble Discoverer.
Those violations included fire hazards as well as violations related to risks with the propulsion system. The propulsion system had problems that did not allow the ship to operate at adequate speeds. The Coast Guard found systematic failures and lack of main engine preventative maintenance of the propulsion system, which caused the propulsion loss.
The other issues that the Coast Guard investigation found were the presence of “inoperable equipment” that was being used to measure oil in the water dumped overboard. The Coast Guard also found improper line slices in the engine room.
The ship is owned by Sugar Land, Texas-based Noble Corporation, and had been leased to Royal Dutch Shell.
The bad news in the Coast Guard report comes at an inopportune time for Shell, which is still reeling from the widely publicized grounding of another rig, Kulluk. That rig came free from its tow lines during a storm through the Gulf of Alaska, and was grounded for several days near Kodiak island.
The fact that the Coast Guard has referred these violations to the Department Of Justice indicates that the agency finds these violations very serious. Several questions are likely to be raised about whether Shell is even capable of drilling safely in highly dangerous Arctic waters.
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