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Foreign flagging of offshore rigs skirts U.S. safety rules

The Marshall Islands, not the U.S., had the main responsibility for safety inspections on the Deepwater Horizon.

June 14, 2010|By Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger, Tribune Washington Bureau

John Konrad, a licensed captain who publishes a maritime blog and is consulting with survivors, said oil rigs should be under the command of licensed sea captains.

"On the Deepwater Horizon you had the guy who does the drilling plans able to make the call on safety," Konrad said.

Such dual command structures would not be accepted for U.S.-flagged operations, experts say.

The Deepwater Horizon captain testified to investigators last month that he conferred with the drilling manager before he attempted to disconnect the rig. By the time a crew member decided on his own to push the emergency disconnect, it was too late.

Kennedy, the spokesman for Transocean, said, "Having two complementary positions that reflect the dual functionality of the rig, as the Horizon did, provides a clear but collaborative chain of command that has been employed by the industry for decades."

But Steven Gordon, a maritime lawyer in Houston representing Brown, six other survivors and the family of one of the 11 workers killed in the blast, said, "This course of action cost men their lives."

"It led to a jumble of disorganization on the Deepwater Horizon at the moment when organization was needed the most," he said.

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