“One Gulf, One Standard” Evolves – USCG and BSEE Sign Four New MOUs in Efforts to Clarify Their Regulatory Roles on the OCS

For the past few years, this blog has attempted to chart the fraught and developing regulatory overlap between the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and Bureau of Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) in the fallout from the DEEPWATER HORIZON disaster and ensuing  ramped up regulatory action on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  As part of these increased regulatory enforcement efforts, the USCG and BSEE entered a series of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) in the months and years following the April 2010 DEEPWATER HORIZON blowout in an attempt to circumscribe each agency’s distinct sphere of authority.  These MOUs, however, left many gray areas and blurred lines as to whether one entity – or both – may hold sway on certain enforcement issues, none of which is good for a technologically complex and constantly evolving industry that requires precision in order to ensure compliance.

As part of the continued effort toward the (arguably) “white whale” goal of establishing a “One Gulf, One Standard” approach to regulating the OCS, the USCG and BSEE recently entered four additional MOUs (effective January 10, 2017) in an effort to “increase collaboration, clarify responsibilities, and streamline information sharing.”  This post will be followed by a series in the coming days that will provide a brief discussion of each of these MOUs. (more…)

“Mighty Difference Between a Living Thump and a Dead Thump” – BSEE’s “Universal Thump” Invalidated; District Court Holds that BSEE Has No Jurisdiction Over Offshore Contractors

“And there’s a mighty difference between a living thump and a dead thump.”
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

In a dramatic reversal of a prior and equally dramatic, watershed administrative decision of the Interior Bureau of Land Appeals (IBLA) upholding the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) regulatory jurisdiction over offshore contractors on the Outer Continental Shelf, the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has overturned the IBLA’s ruling and stripped BSEE of that jurisdiction.  Island Operating Co. v. Jewell et al., Case No. 16-145 (W.D. La. Dec. 23, 2016).  Thus, under the Island Operating decision, BSEE may no longer wield what this blog has previously described as “the universal thump [it has previously] passed around” on offshore contractors; it has been rendered, at least for now, a “dead thump.” (more…)

Maritime Cybersecurity Inland and Offshore – Avoiding “Paid Spies and Secret Confidential Agents on the Water of the Devil” and “Mere Dead Reckoning of the Error-Abounding Log”

– Moby Dick, Or The Whale, Herman Melville

The past eighteen to twenty-four months have seen a tectonic shift of focus (as well as a plethora of industry-generated white papers) by virtually every governmental regulatory entity, NGO, and industry group in the maritime world (up to and including the President of the United States) to the amorphous and dynamic issue of maritime “cybersecurity,” a term that covers a large waterfront of potential threats. (more…)

Maritime Collateral Source Rule Clarified By Fifth Circuit

In an eminently reasonable, but apparently (surprisingly) res nova decision, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has clarified that the maritime collateral source rule does not allow for recovery of medical amounts billed but later written down by the medical providers. Deperrodil v. Bozovic Marine, Inc., —F.3d —, 2016 WL 6810728 (5th Cir. Nov. 17, 2016). (more…)

Petronius To Petrobras – Fifth Circuit Reaffirms Test For Ocsla Versus Maritime Tort Jurisdiction

In 2006, the Fifth Circuit issued a landmark controversial opinion in Texaco Exploration & Production, Inc. v. AmClyde Engineered Products Co., 448 F.3d 760, 770 (5th Cir.) amended on reh’g, 453 F.3d 652 (5th Cir. 2006). The case concerned the loss of the 3,605 ton, $70 million South Deck Module of Texaco’s compliant tower Petronius platform (then the tallest man-made structure in the world, from seafloor to above-surface platform height) due to failure of a wire rope component during transfer of the module from a deck barge via a barge-mounted crane. Despite the fact that the operation involved the use of two vessels and the crane-assisted movement of the South Deck Module over water in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, the Fifth Circuit held that admiralty tort jurisdiction did not apply, and that the incident fell within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (“OCSLA”). Accordingly, the case was remanded for a jury trial (after a prior improvidently conducted bench trial in admiralty) pursuant to the law of Alabama (the state adjacent to the platform site), instead of general maritime law. (more…)