Regulatory bodies are looking to institute new legislation to reform the offshore oil drilling industry, but many experts in the field are worried that the new measures may be too little, too late.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) are continuing to institute reforms to better define and enforce regulations to prevent accidents, oil spills and environmental damage. The regulations have come into play largely due to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which left thousands of gallons of oil in the Gulf with a disaster impact on the environment, the residents of the area and the petroleum industry as a whole.

Included in the new legislation is a requirement that offshore contractors must show evidence that adequate response mechanisms are in place in order to deal with a drilling blowout. When applying for permits, offshore operators will have to include documentation showing appropriate and up to date standards of exploration, design, development and oversight. All permit applications will then be reviewed and approved or denied by a governing body, including a qualified third party engineer.

From 2012 onwards, all corporations that participant in offshore drilling activities of any kind will need to review resources to be used in the event of a subsea blowout, to contain the explosion and possibility of a resultant oil spill. In addition, inspection teams will be deployed to ships to ensure that the requirements are stringently adhered to. Any vessels that do not meet the minimum requirements laid out in the new legislation may face suspension of their operating licenses.

These actions by marine regulatory bodies have been welcomed by the industry, and it is thought that the new legislation will improve safety of crew members on offshore drilling vessels, as well as minimizing the environmental impact of harvesting natural oil resources. However, some have claimed that the changes are too little, too late – particularly for the thousands of offshore workers that have already been injured or lost their lives in offshore accidents caused by inadequate blowout containment.

Many offshore workers who have been injured on the job have a right to legal recourse against their employer or the vessel owner, if negligence is found to have played a role in the injury or death. Offshore workers should stand up for their rights and make sure that employers are held accountable for unsafe practices – it is only then that real change will be seen in the oil industry.

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