The LA Times has an interesting article this morning revealing how drilling companies skirt U.S. laws by registering their oil rigs in countries like the Marshall Islands, described by the Times as a "tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean."
Drilling rigs are considered to be "vessels" under maritime law. This permits their owners and operators to register them wherever they want in the world. Like cruise lines which register their ships in Liberia, Panama, and the Bahamas, oil and gas companies and drilling contractors register their rigs outside the U.S. to avoid American safety laws and taxes.
Congress will be conducting a hearing on the safety of these foreign flagged drilling rigs this Thursday. The Times quotes James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, as stating: "Today, these oil rigs can operate under different, very minimal standards of inspection established by international maritime treaties."
Representative Oberstar is a friend of cruise passengers and crew members, having taken a leading role in passing the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act in the House of Representatives last year. This law protects cruise passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships. Take a minute and read: " Congressional All Stars Pass Cruise Crime Law By Vote of 416 to 4."
For additional information on the Marshall Islands vessel registration system, consider reading: "Growth Of The Marshall Islands Flag and American Bureau of Shipping."
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