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.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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