Federal Offshore Safety Agency Mulls Oversight of Contractors

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is considering extension of the powers of the agency to include oversight of contractors in the offshore oil and gas drilling industry. Currently, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement only has oversight over the operators of offshore drilling rigs. However, an overwhelming majority of the offshore oil workers currently are contractors. In the Gulf of Mexico, almost all personnel that are involved in offshore oil and gas drilling operations are contractors. The proportion of offshore employees of operators ranges between 20% and 60%. The Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement this week commented that it made no sense to him that the agency had oversight over operators, but not contractors. As a maritime lawyer, while I find it commendable that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is considering increasing its oversight to cover more numbers of personnel manning offshore oil and gas drilling operations, I don't think the federal agency has the resources to expand its operations in this manner. According to the director, the federal agency already lacks the staff and resources as well the technical knowledge to take on responsibilities related to offshore contractors. In order to give it regulatory authority over contractors, the agency will have to be manned by personnel who have greater experience and technical expertise than offshore contractors, which is currently not the case. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is beefing up its personnel in order to increase enforcement capacity. The agency is hiring senior staff members to staff the environmental enforcement unit. In addition, new inspectors are being added to the agency.

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