Coast Guard faults Transocean in gulf spill

Associated Press / April 23, 2011

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NEW ORLEANS — Flaws in Transocean Ltd.’s emergency training and equipment and a poor safety culture contributed to the deadly Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that led to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, according to a report released yesterday.

The Coast Guard report centered on Transocean’s role in the disaster because it owned the rig and was primarily responsible for ensuring its safety, the Coast Guard said. BP owned the well that blew out.

The Coast Guard report also concluded that decisions made by workers aboard the rig, such as failing to follow procedures for notifying other crew members about the emergency after the blast, “may have affected the explosions or their impact.’’

The report does not explore the root causes of the well blowout, which triggered the explosions that killed 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the gulf. But the Coast Guard said numerous actions by Transocean and the rig’s crew affected their ability to prevent the disaster.

Electrical equipment that may have ignited the explosion was poorly maintained, and gas alarms and automatic shutdown systems were bypassed so that they did not alert the crew, the report said. Also, rig workers did not receive adequate training to avoid an explosion, it said.

“These deficiencies indicate that Transocean’s failure to have an effective safety management system and instill a culture that emphasizes and ensures safety contributed to this disaster,’’ the report said.

Transocean spokesman Brian Kennedy said the Coast Guard inspected the Deepwater Horizon seven months before the blowout and certified it as being fully compliant with all applicable marine safety compliance standards.

“We strongly disagree with — and documentary evidence in the Coast Guard’s possession refutes — key findings in this report,’’ he said in a statement.

The report found lax oversight by the rig’s flag state, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a Pacific nation where Transocean registered the rig in 2005. It said the Coast Guard should ramp up inspections of foreign-flagged rigs.