Marshall Islands releases flag-state report on Deepwater Horizon casualty

deepwfireAdding to the growing number of reports on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), the country with which the rig was registered, has now issued its report on the incident. Released by the Marshall Islands Maritime Administrator - Reston, Va. headquartered International Registries, Inc.-  the RMI Deepwater Horizon Marine Casualty Investigation Report (RMI Report)  has been provided to the Secretary General of IMO, with copies also going to the U.S. Coast Guard  and BOEMRE. The Report can be downloaded in its entirety HERE.

The RMI Report contains findings of fact, conclusions, and recommendations, focusing on the marine operations of the Deepwater Horizon, which are the purview of the flag state. Although not regulated by the flag state, the industrial operations of the mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) are discussed, in so far as they are necessary to provide a complete picture of the casualty or where they may have impacted the overall safety of the MODU. To assist the RMI Maritime Administrator in its understanding and analysis of engineering and technical aspects, consultants were retained with expertise in drilling, engineering, and fire science.

Based on the Maritime Administrator’s assessment of the evidence in the investigative record and the consultants’ reports, it was concluded that the proximate cause of the casualty was a loss of well control resulting from a deviation from standards of well control engineering, a deviation from the well abandonment plans submitted to and approved by the Minerals Management Service, and a failure to react to multiple indications that a well control event was in progress. These factors contributed to the substantial release of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons, which culminated in explosions, fire, the loss of 11 lives, the eventual sinking and total loss of the Deepwater Horizon, and the release of hydrocarbons into the Gulf of Mexico. Other non-causal factor conclusions are identified in the RMI Report followed by recommendations which address the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon casualty and opportunities for improvement.

“We continue to remember and reflect on the lives of the 11 individuals who perished during this casualty,” said Bill Gallagher, RMI Senior Deputy Commissioner of Maritime Affairs. “The recommendations being brought forward in the RMI Report are in the spirit of the promotion of safety of life at sea, the protection of the marine environment and the prevention of such casualties in the future,” concluded Mr. Gallagher.


Mobile offshore drilling units (MODUs) that are flagged in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) must follow RMI law and regulations, all international conventions to which the RMI is a party, as well as any laws and regulations promulgated by the coastal State of the waters in which they are operating. The RMI is party to all major International Maritime Organization (IMO) conventions and related instruments and implements these through its national laws and regulations. In order for any vessel like the Deepwater Horizon to operate on the United States (US) outer continental shelf (OCS), it must comply with US regulations. There are a number of governmental agencies involved in the oversight of vessels operating on the US OCS including the United States Coast Guard (USCG), of the US Department of Homeland Security, which oversees marine issues with respect to vessels operating in its national waters and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) (known as Minerals Management Service (MMS) at the time of the casualty), of the US Department of Interior, which oversees issues regarding exploration and development of resources on the OCS.

The RMI, as the flag state, enforces regulations relating to inspection, certification, safety, security and pollution prevention in connection with marine operations for vessels registered under its flag. In this respect, the MODU was inspected annually by RMI contracted inspectors. The USCG boarded the Deepwater Horizon once a year while it was operating in the Gulf of Mexico in accordance with procedures for maintaining the validity of the Certificate of Compliance required by the USCG. Following an onboard inspection in July 2009, the USCG issued a renewal Certificate of Compliance valid for a period of two years allowing continued operations on the OCS. MMS conducted monthly safety inspections on board the unit in February, March, and April 2010. Neither agency reported safety deficiencies or issues of concern as a result of these inspections. At the time of the casualty, the Deepwater Horizon was certified in accordance with all applicable US, RMI and international requireme

August 17, 2011

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