Gulf Disaster Prompts Agency Rule Change

     WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Coast Guard plans to require foreign vessels to comply with U.S. casualty reporting requirements following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
     In 2010, a mobile offshore drilling unit owned by British Petroleum exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, sinking the unit, killing 11 people and creating the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
     Coast Guard investigators concluded the casualty reporting requirements for foreign-flag outer continental shelf (OCS) units were "insufficient." They said that if two other incidents in 2008, involving flooding and total loss of power, had been investigated, contributing factors in the 2010 disaster could have been addressed and remedied.
     Existing regulations did not require the incidents to be reported. Reporting for foreign vessels is currently limited to casualties relating to deaths, multiple injuries or an individual's lengthy incapacitation.
     In contrast, U.S. vessels must additionally report other incidents, such as a vessel losing its dynamic positioning system, main propulsion or primary steering.
     The proposed regulation would require foreign-flag commercial vessels operating on the OCS to comply with the same casualty reporting requirements as U.S.-flag ships.
     The Coast Guard said it is not suggesting the proposed rule by itself would have prevented the disaster. It does, however, level the reporting playing field.
     "This disparity between the reporting requirements ... prevents the Coast Guard from collecting data on many incidents that have significant safety implications for the U.S. OCS environment and the lives of U.S. citizens and resident aliens working there," according to the action.
     Comments are due by April 10.