It should be noted that Transocean had widespread safety concerns about several of its other rigs in the Gulf before the April explosion. A month before the disaster, the company commissioned a broad review of the safety culture of the company’s North American operations, according to confidential internal reports. In response to “a series of serious accidents and near-hits within the global organization,” Transocean, the world’s largest offshore drilling company, commissioned Lloyd’s Register, a risk management company, to investigate its Houston headquarters and three other Gulf rigs besides the Deepwater Horizon to assess its safety culture. It’s abundantly clear from these reports that Transocean has had widespread safety issues.
Transocean has 14 rigs now operating in the Gulf of Mexico, and 139 worldwide. The new documents also shed light on one of the lingering mysteries of the disaster: “Why did the rig sink?” Apparently there were problems with the Deepwater Horizon’s ballast system that was responsible for keeping the rig afloat and stable. It’s being speculated by some that if the rig hadn’t sunk, the leak might not have occurred. Federal investigators have questioned whether deferred maintenance and other factors had played a role in the sinking of the rig. A previous set of worker-safety reports provided to The Times were specific to the Deepwater Horizon.
The safety concerns cited in the company’s assessment of its North American division are supplemented by newly-released internal reports concerning the Deepwater Horizon’s equipment. These equipment reports identify dozens of deficiencies, including some relating to the rig’s blowout preventer, and some that are categorized as “critical equipment items that may lead to loss of life, serious injury or environmental damage as a result of inadequate use and/or failure of equipment.”
The summary report should get the attention of those who say the federal government “over-regulates” the off-shore drilling operations. The report reads: “Without a doubt, previous incidents and near-hits experienced throughout the organization were a result of multiple causes and many contributory factors.” An overview is given in the report of the company’s North American Division and draws from investigations of Transocean’s Marianas, Discoverer Clear Leader, GSF Development Driller II and Deepwater Horizon drilling rigs.
But this is not the first report of the Deepwater Horizon experiencing problems with its ballast system. In May 2008, federal records show that Transocean was forced to evacuate more than 70 workers after problems with the ballast system flooded part of the rig, causing it to list to its side. It appears that a lack of hands-on experience for workers and managers has contributed to safety concerns at the company. The investigation also found a stifling bureaucracy imposed by onshore management has led to widespread resentment among rig workers.
These new documents obtained by the Times refer to at least 36 pieces of equipment in bad repair on the Deepwater Horizon that “may lead to loss of life, serious injury or environmental damage as a result of inadequate use and/or failure of equipment.” The new equipment documents indicate that an inspection of the Deepwater Horizon rig conducted just days before the April 20th accident found various problems with hydraulic relays that controlled the rig’s watertight doors, two of which had to be opened and closed by hand.
Source: New York Times
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