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Fri Jun 4 12:07:27 MDT 2010

Foreign flagging of offshore rigs skirts U.S. safety rules
The Marshall Islands, not the U.S., had the main responsibility for safety 
inspections on the Deepwater Horizon.

By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau
Reporting from Washington -

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico was built 
in South Korea. It was operated by a Swiss company under contract to a 
British oil firm. Primary responsibility for safety and other inspections 
rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall 
Islands - a tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean.

And the Marshall Islands, a maze of tiny atolls, many smaller than the 
ill-fated oil rig, outsourced many of its responsibilities to private 

Now, as the government tries to figure out what went wrong in the worst 
environmental catastrophe in U.S. history, this international patchwork of 
divided authority and sometimes conflicting priorities is emerging as a 
crucial underlying factor in the explosion of the rig.

Under International law, offshore oil rigs like the Deepwater Horizon are 
treated as ships, and companies are allowed to "register" them in unlikely 
places such as the Marshall Islands, Panama and Liberia - reducing the U.S. 
government's role in inspecting and enforcing safety and other standards.

"Today, these oil rigs can operate under different, very minimal standards 
of inspection established by international maritime treaties," said Rep. 
James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

Some offshore drilling experts, as well as some survivors of the explosion 
that led to the massive spill, say foreign registration also permitted a 
confusing command structure and understaffing - factors that may have 
contributed to the disaster.

read the rest at,0,7349376.story

Such is how the real world works...


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