US says offshore oil drill to be deployed in Cuba is OK
By Juan O. Tamayo
U.S. Coast Guard and environmental safety officials have inspected and
OK'd an offshore oil drilling platform headed to Cuba, under an unusual
arrangement designed to allay concerns about a possible spill that could
foul the U.S. coastline.
The inspection of the Scarabeo-9 platform was completed Monday off the
coast of the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago by personnel from
the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety
and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE).
"The review is consistent with U.S. efforts to minimize the possibility
of a major oil spill, which would hurt U.S. economic and environmental
interests," said a statement issued late Monday by the Interior Department.
Plans by the Spanish-based Repsol YPF oil company to use the platform to
drill off Cuba's northwestern shores, about 70 miles from the Florida
Keys, have sparked U.S. concerns about a spill as well as the U.S.
embargo's impact on efforts to control any damages.
To ease the worries, Repsol invited the U.S. inspectors to check out the
platform before it arrives in Cuba and has promised to meet all U.S.
requirements when it starts to drill, even though Scarabeo will be
operating in Cuba's Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Scarabeo platform was built in China, with less than 10 percent of
its components made in the United States, specifically to sidestep the
U.S. commercial embargo on the island.
The Interior Department statement said the inspectors "reviewed vessel
construction, drilling equipment, and safety systems – including
lifesaving and firefighting equipment, emergency generators, dynamic
positioning systems, machinery spaces, and the blowout preventer."
"The review compared the vessel with applicable international safety and
security standards as well as U.S. standards for drilling units
operating in the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. U.S," the statement noted.
"Personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing
international and U.S. standards by which Repsol has pledged to abide,"
although the review "does not confer any form of certification or
endorsement under U.S. or international law."
Cuba's plans to drill for oil in deep waters off its northwestern coast
have sparked fears among some environmentalists and some U.S. Congress
members that oil spilled in Cuban waters could reach U.S. waters and
The accident last year at the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling
rig similar to the Scarabeo platform, killed 11 workers and spilled
hundreds of millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.
Repsol YPF has contracted with the Cuban government for the right to
explore in a section of the Straits of Florida that is generally deeper
than the area where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.