Oberstar calls to 'Americanize' offshore rigs to help ensure worker safety

A top Coast Guard official conceded this week that foreign-flagged vessels operating off the nation's coasts are inspected less thoroughly for safety and environmental hazards than U.S.-flagged vessels. 

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which exploded off the coast of Louisiana in April, killing 11 workers and injuring dozens more, was registered in the Marshall Islands. 

Appearing before a House transportation panel Thursday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Kevin Cook said that foreign-flagged vessels are inspected at least once a year for compliance with work safety regulations. But after being grilled by lawmakers, Cook also conceded that U.S.-flagged vessels are inspected more rigorously, the L.A. Times reported

In the case of foreign-flagged vessels, the Times wrote, "the Coast Guard relies in part on outside companies that submit detailed inspection reports that are then reviewed by the Coast Guard."

Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said the trend makes a strong case for "Americanizing" the offshore rigs operating in U.S. waters, thus subjecting them to the stiffer inspections.  

"The Deepwater Horizon was working for a British corporation, owned by a Swiss company and flagged in the Republic of the Marshall Islands," Oberstar said in a statement. "Still, the personal, environmental and economic losses caused by this casualty are being borne by Americans."