Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) has added a provision to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2011, currently under consideration in Congress, which would require the owner/operator of any offshore rig or vessel engaged in drilling, plugging and abandoning or workover operations to maintain a standby rescue vessels within 3 nautical miles.

The provision is being applauded by those who believe it is an appropriate safety measure in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon blowout that resulted in the deaths of 11 workers and the rescue of 115 others by a supply boat that happened to be alongside the rig at the time.  The requirement also could also create additional work for vessel operators in the Gulf of Mexico.  But there is opposition to the measure, even by other legislators in Rep. Landry’s own state.  Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) has criticized it, saying “It would create excessive regulations on energy producers and hinders the progress we have made in order to restart Gulf energy production.”  Additionally, the measure would allow the use of one standby vessel for more than one manned facility or vessel, and the use of standby vessels for purposes other than rescue.

Vessel operators interested in providing the rescue services called for in the bill therefore could face some difficult operational decisions and even liability concerns.  Accordingly, close attention to risk-allocation, indemnity and insurance provisions in agreements to provide these rescue services would be highly recommended.

For further coverage on Landry’s proposal:

Louisiana Oil & Gas Association

The Times-Picayune