United States offshore petroleum regulators ruled this week that a Spanish rig headed to Cuban waters meets international safety standards.The oil rig was inspected in Trinidad and Tobago and will continue its journey to Cuba. The Department of the Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), and the Coast Guard, inspected the rig's blowout preventer and other safety equipment, the Havana Times reported.
The inspection was done voluntarily by the Spanish oil firm to disarm mounting fears in Washington and Florida regarding the rig's safety.
According to BSEE's Web site, regulators assessed the rig's firefighting equipment, vessel construction and drilling equipment.
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, read a statement on the BSEE's Web site. U.S. personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing international and U.S. standards, by which Repsol has pledged to abide.
The Spanish rig will begin drilling for oil in the island's Exclusive Economic Zone in the Gulf of Mexico within a couple of months, the statement said, which places the rig outside the regulative authority of the United States.
While Gulf Coast states are still recovering from the BP Macondo well disaster of 2010, the possibility that a similar event could happen in foreign waters and in a country where the U.S. embargo might hinder cleanup efforts, is prompting states to revise their own oil response plans.
According to BSEE's Web site, Florida's coast guard is working on updating its contingency plans in the event of an international spill, and Washington is participating in multilateral discussions with Mexico, the Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica on oil-spill preparedness and response.
The Spanish rig was built in China and cost $750 million. Cuba is said to have at least 9 billion barrels of oil in its waters, reported the Havana Times.