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Marine Safety Alert: BSEE & USCG identify delayed T-Time execution, poor operational decisions, and equipment breakdowns as contributors to a drillship’s unsuccessful attempt to avoid Hurricane Ida

The Coast Guard Office of Investigations and Analysis has released Marine Safety Alert 05-22, to addresses an extreme weather event involving a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) conducting well operations in the Gulf of Mexico. The MODU, with 115 personnel onboard, lost 11 marine riser joints and a lower marine riser package (LMRP) and polluted the Gulf of Mexico with 88 barrels of miscellaneous fluids in its failed attempt to evacuate the area and evade Hurricane Ida.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) Gulf of Mexico Region and the United States Coast Guard 8th District Outer Continental Shelf Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection (D8 OCS OCMI) initiated separate investigations into this event.

The BSEE investigation concluded that the operator and contractor representatives failed to promptly start the Temporary Abandonment (TA) procedures. The T-Time[1] calculations were in the red level when the operator and contractor made a “joint decision” to suspend well operations. For several hours the TA was delayed as the operator and contractor jointly decided to conduct a crew change during an operation and reduced staffing and time constraints. Over-torqued bolts and equipment breakdowns prevented the drill crew from retrieving the marine riser and LMRP, causing further delays. In his duty as Ultimate Work Authority, the MODU’s Captain stopped work so the crew could make storm preparations, such as placing covers on riser hatches. The captain and marine crew maneuvered the MODU with 12 riser joints and LMRP still hanging under the moonpool at speeds between 1 and 3.5 knots. Still, they could not evade Category 2+ hurricane-force wind and high/rough seas. The riser subsequently broke just below the rotary sending 11 riser joints and LMRP to the seafloor.

The Coast Guard and BSEE are issuing this Safety Alert jointly because they share jurisdiction on the Outer Continental Shelf and wish to highlight the importance of risk-based operational planning and preparation when addressing extreme weather events.

Therefore, the USCG and BSEE strongly recommend that operators and contractors consider:

[1] T-time is the time needed to secure well safely, pull riser, prepare the ship for transit, and evacuate/evade the
weather event.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official publications, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These publications remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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