United States: Another Offshore Safety Management System

Last Updated: October 16 2013
Article by Jonathan K. Waldron and Patricia M. O'Neill

On September 10, 2013, the Coast Guard issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making ("ANPRM") outlining its intent to promulgate regulations that will require all domestic and foreign-flag vessels engaged in Outer Continental Shelf ("OCS") activities to develop, implement, and maintain a vessel-specific Safety and Environmental Management System ("SEMS"). This proposal would be in addition to the SEMS requirements implemented under Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement ("BSEE") regulations by expressly requiring SEMS for vessels engaged in OCS activities, and proposing a vessel-specific safety standard based on the American Petroleum Institute's Recommended Practice for Development of a Safety and Environmental Management Program for Offshore Operations and Facilities, Third Edition, May 2004 ("API RP 75"). Comments are due on December 9, 2013. (To view the ANPRM, please visit www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ pkg/FR-2013-09-10/pdf/2013-21938.pdf.)


On October 15, 2010, the successor agency to the BSEE published a SEMS final rule entitled, ''Oil and Gas and Sulphur Operations in the Outer Continental Shelf—Safety and Environmental Management Systems.'' That rule established and required all OCS operators to have a SEMS program in place by November 15, 2011. On April 5, 2013, the BSEE published another final rule revising and adding several new requirements to its SEMS program ("SEMS II"). This new rule became effective on June 4, 2013. Compliance with these new requirements comes into effect on June 4, 2014, except for specified auditing requirements. Now, the Coast Guard has entered the foray on the OCS and is seeking comments on a plan to implement another SEMS program. (To view the SEMS II, please visit www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-04-05/ pdf/2013-07738.pdf; to view BSEE fact sheets, please visit www. bsee.gov/BSEE-Newsroom/BSEE-Fact-Sheets.aspx.)

The BSEE SEMS Regime

The BSEE SEMS program has caused great confusion with respect to its applicability to vessels engaged in OCS activities. The SEMS rule requires operators to have a SEMS program. An offshore operator is the lessee, owner, or holder of operating rights, or the designated operator or agent of the lessee(s) of a pipeline right-of-way holder or a state lessee granted a right-ofuse easement. The SEMS rule also requires an operator, when selecting a contractor, to obtain and evaluate the contractor's safety and environmental performance prior to that contractor performing work for the operator. A contractor is anyone performing work for the lessee. However, as we understand it, although the BSEE did not intend to exercise its jurisdiction over vessels typically under the Coast Guard's jurisdiction, due to the confusion in interpreting the rule, many of the major operators on the OCS are requiring all non-facility contractors to have work practices consistent with the operator's SEMS, and in some cases are insisting that contractors adopt certain portions of the operator's SEMS.

Discussion of the Coast Guard Request for Comments

According to the Coast Guard, it is proposing the implementation of SEMS for vessels engaged in OCS activities that will complement existing vessel design and equipment specifications, be compatible with current safety regulations, be subject to periodic safety audits, and include procedures for emergency response and company internal incident investigations to help mitigate risk and prevent future mistakes.

In considering an appropriate safety management standard, the Coast Guard's proposal recognizes that while certain categories of vessels engaged in OCS activities—such as selfpropelled mobile offshore drill units, drill ships, heavy lift vessels, and offshore supply vessels—currently operate under a Safety Management System ("SMS") as required by the International Safety Management ("ISM") Code, these standards do not address the specific risks to vessels engaged in OCS activities because the ISM Code is focused on international voyages. The Coast Guard's proposal would therefore increase the scope of the current regulations by requiring these vessels and all other vessels involved in OCS activities, including floating production, storage and offloading units, well stimulation vessels, and shuttle tankers, to implement SEMS. The Coast Guard alsonotes that some vessels have voluntarily adopted a SMS based on frameworks other than the API RP 75 or ISM Code. These may include the International Association of Drilling Contractors Health Safety and Environmental Case or the International Standards Organization 9001 (ISO 9001:2008). The Coast Guard is currently researching whether compliance with these management programs would be appropriate alternatives to the API RP 75.

According to the Coast Guard, although the designated lease operator's SEMS program required by the BSEE includes elements of the API RP75, this program is too broad in that it is focused on overall lease activities and the offshore oil, gas, and sulphur operations of facilities on the lease; it is also not vesselspecific. In addition, the proposal noted that although many lease operators require their contractors to implement their own safe working procedures, this does not address the personnel and environmental concerns specific to vessel operations on the OCS. As a result, there is a gap where the facility is also a vessel, as the BSEE does not focus on the unique nature of those vessel operations. The Coast Guard's proposal requiring a vessel-specific SEMS attempts to fill this gap by merging the vessel owner and operator's proposed requirements under the API RP 75 with those of the designated lease operator's requirements under BSEE regulations.

Ultimately, according to the Coast Guard, its goal is to align current Coast Guard regulations with current BSEE SEMS requirements by requiring vessel owners and operators, as the entity that manages day-to-day personnel, vessel operations, and equipment maintenance, to be responsible for developing, implementing, and managing a vessel-specific SEMS. However, as discussed above, whether a SMS approach based on the API RP 75 is compatible with the lease operators SEMS remains to be seen.

In any event, the Coast Guard is doing the right thing by seeking comments from the public at this early stage before it commits to any particular language. Specifically, among other things, it is seeking comments regarding the feasibility of the proposal and whether SEMS based on the principles of the API RP 75 is appropriate for vessels engaged in OCS activities. In that regard, the Coast Guard has listed a series of sixteen questions to which it is asking the public to respond to in order to assist it with moving this rulemaking to the next stage.


Owners/operators of vessels engaged in OCS activities and other parties with interests on the OCS, including those parties with experience with the BSEE SEMS program, are encouraged to review the ANPRM and consider the potential future effects the Coast Guard's implementation of a SEMS program. In particular, parties should review and provide comments, among other things, on the sixteen questions asked by the Coast Guard by December 9, 2013.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions