Posts Tagged ‘US Coast Guard’

Kudos to offshore-energy.biz for drawing attention to the recent Coast Guard medevacs from the pipelay vessel Solitaire. Three health-related medevacs from the same facility in <2 months would seem to warrant further scrutiny. Will the Coast Guard investigate?

The only timely information on medevacs is from Coast Guard news releases. Information on private medevacs is seldom provided, except as included in the BSEE incident tables, which are typically more than 1 year behind, and update presentations by BSEE’s Gulf of Mexico region.

Below is information on 2023 YTD Coast Guard medevacs associated with Gulf of Mexico oil and gas activities. As previously posted, at least 12 workers died at OCS facilities in 2021-22 of natural causes. Unfortunately, “natural cause” fatalities and illnesses receive little industry or regulator attention.

datevessel or platformdescriptioncondition report
5/18OSV Brandon Bordelon 50-year-old male crewmember with an injury to his legstable
5/17Allseas’ pipelay vessel Solitaire65-year-old male crewmember was experiencing heart attack-like symptomsstable
4/26crew boat Mr. Fredhalted search for missing crewmemberpresumed dead
4/23Allseas’ pipelay vessel Solitaire32-year-old male crewmember experiencing severe abdominal pain.stable
3/22Allseas’ pipelay vessel Solitairecrewmember was experiencing seizure-like symptomsstable
3/18BP’s Atlantis platform28 year old male, eye injurystable
3/13unidentified platform 40 miles south of Port Fourchon37-year-old man having difficulty breathingstable

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Walter platform with helicopter debris in foreground

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….for continuing to recognize the Conservation Division of the Geological Survey (USGS) as the US offshore safety regulator, even though 40 years have passed since that was the case and there have been 3 successor bureaus. 😀

33 CFR § 140.4 Relationship to other law. (current text excerpted from Coast Guard Subchapter N regulations)

(a) Design and equipment requirements of this subchapter for OCS facilities, including mobile offshore drilling units in contact with the seabed of the OCS for exploration or exploitation of subsea resources, are in addition to the regulations and orders of the U.S. Geological Survey applicable to those facilities.

USGS North Atlantic District, Hyannis, MA, Halloween 1980

Most of us old-timers think the best regulatory framework for the offshore program was in the USGS days (pre-1982). Some of this may be nostalgia, but there are some good reasons for this thinking:

  • USGS was/is an internationally acclaimed scientific organization that was always headed by a renowned geologist. The regulatory program was thus somewhat insulated from political pressures. Vince McKelvey, Bill Menard, and Dallas Peck were the Directors when I worked for USGS. Their credentials are linked. Bill and Dallas visited our Hyannis office (not at Halloween 😀) and were very supportive.
  • The Conservation Division was responsible for onshore operations on Federal lands as well as offshore activity. This facilitated information sharing and offered diverse career opportunities. My first bosses in New Orleans had worked previously in the Farmington and Roswell, NM offices.
  • We had excellent synergy with the other USGS divisions. The Marine Science Center in Woods Hole was an incredible resource for our Hyannis office. The Woods Hole office, particularly Mike Bothner and Brad Butman, had a critical role in the Georges Bank Monitoring Program, the best ever (in my biased opinion) environmental study of exploratory drilling operations in a frontier area.
  • The USGS Conservation Division had a very small and supportive headquarter’s staff, which minimized the potential for conflict with field offices.
  • Prior to the formation of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in 1982, the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for leasing, but all regulatory functions were under USGS. This included resource evaluation/conservation, plan review and approval, permitting, inspections and enforcement, and investigations. The division of MMS responsibilities, most notably the assignment of plan approval to the leasing bureau (BOEM) rather than the regulatory bureau (BSEE), complicates the work of both bureaus and is a prescription for inefficiency, confusion, overlap, and conflict.

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Vessel Finder

According to the Coast Guard, investigators determined the ship “was involved in an anchor dragging incident on Jan. 25, 2021 during a heavy weather event that impacted the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach.” The anchor- dragging occurred “in close proximity” to an underwater pipeline later determined to be the source of the October leak that spilled thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean, forcing the closure of beaches and harbors across Orange County.


The hearings and the liability battles that follow will be most interesting. Those lined up to sue the pipeline operator (Amplify), such as this Huntington Beach disc jockey, may have difficulties.

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The vessel was conducting research for a proposed offshore wind project. The Coast Guard rescued the 2 crew members, one of whom tragically died. Why has the Coast Guard still not issued an investigation report more than 13 years after the incident? An inquiry was sent to the Coast Guard but no response has been received.

There are serious questions regarding the positioning of a liftboat in the Mid-Atlantic for several months beginning in March when major storms are likely. There are also important questions about the liftboat’s failure mechanisms, the operator’s authority to be conducting this research, and the actions that were taken in preparation for storm conditions.

One worker died and another was seriously endangered. 13 years after the incident, we are still wondering what happened and why.

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US Coast Guard Subchapter N (current language as of 9/29/2021)

33 CFR §140.4   Relationship to other law.

(b) Any apparent conflict between the application of any requirement of this subchapter and any regulation or order of the U.S. Geological Survey should immediately be brought to the attention of the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection.

I was proud to have worked for the Conservation Division of the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) when the US offshore program was at its peak in terms of scope and activity. I therefore like the nostalgia value of this provision. That said, USGS has not been the offshore safety regulator since 1982. While updating regulations can be extraordinarily difficult, simple administrative fixes are not. Such corrections are a good way to give old, outdated rules a fresh look. 😃

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