USCG Discovers 16 Safety Violations on Shell’s Noble Discoverer

One of two Arctic drilling ships employed by Shell Oil does not have proper propulsion to handle all expected weather conditions, has engine trouble, and multiple fire hazards on board the ship, according to sixteen violations identified by the Coast Guard, which were made public on Friday, February 22, by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The violations were found by the U.S. Coast Guard following a November inspection of the Noble Discoverer, which is currently set to be transported to Asia to receive a new round of inspections and maintenance.

Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, asked Shell about these violations, when they knew about them, what plan the company has to fix them, and their prospects for re-starting drilling in the Arctic following these revelations.

“The reports that Shell may have been drilling this summer using a drill ship with serious deficiencies in its safety and pollution control equipment raise additional and continued questions about whether Shell is able to drill safely offshore in the Arctic and raises serious questions regarding the nature and adequacy of Shell’s compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” writes Rep. Markey. “It is imperative that any drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean occur with the highest levels of safety and environmental protections in place, and I am not convinced that these levels can ever be met given the extreme weather conditions and Shell’s performance thus far.”

The Noble Discoverer, along with the Noble Kulluk, are the current Arctic drilling ships Shell is using to explore for oil in Alaska. The Kulluk ran aground as 2012 came to a close after being overwhelmed by a storm and losing connection to its tow vehicles. One of the violations handed out by the Coast Guard against the Discoverer states that “current propulsion arrangement does not result in sufficient speed at sea to safely maneuver in all expected conditions without tow assistance.”

In the letter to Shell’s Odum, Rep. Markey asks whether Shell plans on addressing these violations while the ships are at dock in Asia, and what procedures they will institute following this obvious breakdown in drilling and worker safety.

Read Rep. Markey’s full letter.

Press Release, February 25, 2013

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