USCG beefs up MODU inspection capacity, Senate panel told

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, July 20 -- The US Coast Guard has increased its resources to inspect mobile offshore drilling units since last year’s Macondo deepwater well accident and oil spill, Rear Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, USCG’s assistant commandant for marine safety, security, and stewardship, told a US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee.

The US Department of Homeland Security agency announced a risk-based program for MODUs on July 7 that will result in more frequent examination of the highest-risk units based on accident history, past discrepancies, flag state performance, and classification society performance, Zukunft said in written testimony submitted to the committee’s Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard Subcommittee.

“Marine inspectors will focus on critical areas, such as dynamic positioning systems and operator competency,” he said. The Obama administration’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget requests money for more inspectors, investigators, and other marine safety personnel to inspect vessels and conduct post-incident investigations, he indicated.

“All MODUs operating in the United States are subject to annual examinations to verify compliance with area laws and international conventions,” Zukunft said. “If that exam finds ‘questionable equipment, systems, or crew competency issues’, [USCG] can expand its investigation to determine whether a deficiency exists, and may require additional tests, inspections, or crew drills.”

It also is actively overseeing the Marine Well Containment Corp. and Helix Well Control Group’s development of offshore spill containment capabilities to promote rigorous testing and ensure that vessels can respond to a spill and meet applicable safety and environmental requirements, he continued. An Outer Continental Shelf Activities Matrix Team which it recently established will focus on emerging issues, increase USCG’s plan review and inspection oversight, support investigations and casualty analysis, “and provide a holistic approach to management of OCS safety programs,” Zukunft said.

Working with BOEMRE
He noted that USCG shares US offshore oil and gas regulatory responsibilities with the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement, with memorandums of understanding and regulations delineating each agency’s role. USCG’s primary responsibilities generally are related to vessel operations and safety systems, and include a MODU’s firefighting, electrical, and lifesaving systems, and hull structures, Zukunft explained. USCG “does not oversee drilling systems, but the interface between surface and subsurface operations warrants close coordination and cooperation between both agencies,” he said.

“We continue to engage and improve coordination with BOEMRE through a prevention working group that focuses on enhancing alignment and consistency between the two agencies on how inspections are conducted,” he told the subcommittee. “The team will coordinate closely with [USCG]-sponsored OCS stakeholder organizations such as the National Offshore Safety Advisory Committee and other BOEMRE-Coast Guard meetings and working groups as vehicles for improving OCS safety.”

The agencies also formed a joint response work group to improve interagency partnerships and collaborate on improving preparedness efforts after the Macondo well blowout, Zukunft said. Significant initiatives include joint oil spill response plan reviews, regional and area contingency plan analyses, joint BOEMRE-USCG pollution equipment inspections, and a review of the effective daily recovery capacity standard for mechanical recovery equipment, he noted.

The US oil and gas industry also has significantly improved offshore safety operations since the accident and spill, according to Erik Milito, the American Petroleum Institute’s upstream and industry operations director. “Immediately after the accident, the industry formed task forces to examine every aspect of offshore safety systems, including equipment, operating practices, subseal well control, and spill response,” he told the subcommittee. “Due to the leadership and work of the industry, we now have enhanced capabilities in each of the key areas: prevention, capping and containment, and spill response.”

Moving forward, the US oil and gas industry has committed to review the entire spill response system, identify any potential gaps, and address them where necessary, Milito said. “We have initiated this review on issues such as dispersants, in-situ burning, and mechanical recovery,” he said. “This review effort involves both US and international stakeholders; it is open to the entire industry; it covers both Gulf of Mexico and Alaska activities; and it seeks government input in the program.”

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

BHI: US oil rig count rises for first time in 30 weeks

07/02/2015 A sudden 12-unit jump in oil-directed rigs during the abbreviated week ended July 2 represented their first rise since Dec. 5, 2014, and helped lif...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...

BHP, Woodside move to decommission Stybarrow field

07/01/2015 BHP Billiton Ltd. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. have started preparations for decommissioning of the Stybarrow group of oil fields in production lice...

Tullow Oil provides production update on Jubilee, other fields

07/01/2015 Tullow Oil PLC reported that gross production for the Jubilee field offshore Ghana averaged 105,000 b/d in this year’s first half, up from 102,000 ...

Statoil to suspend Scarabeo 5 drilling rig

07/01/2015 Due to overcapacity in its rig portfolio, Statoil ASA said it has decided to suspend Saipem’s Scarabeo 5 dynamically position drilling rig after it...

FWS issues Shell letter of authorization on Chukchi Sea lease

07/01/2015 The US Fish & Wildlife Service issued Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. a letter of authorization (LOA) related to the potential disturbance of polar b...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Better Data, Better Analytics, Better Decisions

When Tue, Oct 27, 2015

The Oil & Gas industry has large amounts of data stored in multiple systems which are purpose built for certain tasks. However, good decisions require insights based upon the data in all of these systems. These systems in turn do not talk to each other. So the process of analyzing data, gaining insights, and making decisions is a slow one and often a flawed one. Good decisions require accurate analytics and accurate analytics require superior/sustainable data quality and governance. This webinar focuses on:

  • The importance of data quality and governance
  • How technological advances are making data quality and governance sustainable in order to get the accurate analytics to make solid decisions.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Seven Lakes Technologies and Noah Consulting.


Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected