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Coast Guard says blowout preventers and other offshore drilling systems should be inspected more ‘holistically’

Blowout preventer and
lower marine riser
package from Deepwater
Horizon oil rig

In an effort to prevent another BP-like oil spill disaster, the U.S. Coast Guard has issued “draft guidance” to its own personnel as well as the offshore drilling industry on ways in which operators, technicians and inspectors can examine some of the key components of a drilling rig -- such as blowout preventers, dynamic positioning systems and emergency disconnect systems -- more “holistically.”

The Coast Guard acknowledged, in a notice it published in the Federal Register on Dec. 29, that the “myriad requirements imposed by multiple oversight entities makes this exceedingly difficult.”

The notice points out that the owners and operators of these “integrated systems” currently are subject to international guidelines, Coast Guard regulations, industry standards and “Flag State” requirements.

“This draft policy letter…would give guidance on how to witness inspection and tests of these critical systems by industry and [the Department of Interior's bureau of safety and environmental enforcement] in a holistic way using the various requirements, standards and guidelines,” says the notice.

The public is invited to comment on the draft guidance letter by Jan. 30, 2012 by visiting www.regulations.gov and citing docket number USCG-2011-1106.

The Coast Guard will hold a public meeting to discuss such comments to its proposed guidance letter at Coast Guard headquarters at 2100 2nd Street, SW, Washington, DC 20593, in room 2500, on February 9, 2012 at 1 PM.

Further information is available from Commander Joshua Reynolds, of the Coast Guard’s office of design and engineering standards, at 202-372-1355 or Joshua.D.Reynolds@uscg.mil.