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ADELAIDE, Australia-A South Australian investigation into a 1996 oil rig accident blames the near-environmental disaster on a failure to follow government safety regulations and procedures, among other things.
The Danish owner of the rig, the Maersk Victory, has filed a substantial insurance claim for damage to the rig.
Details and conclusions of the investigation into the accident were compiled in a report submitted to the South Australian Parliament and then tabled. The report was subsequently made public.
The report concluded that South Australian safety procedures had not been followed by the rig's operators, said Kristi Shore, petroleum engineer with the state government's Mines & Energy Resources Department. Despite the report's conclusion, no charges or further action had been recommended, she said, noting it was prepared only to improve rig safety.
The 8,500-ton Maersk Victory was being settled in place in the ocean in the Gulf of St. Vincent, about 19 miles south of Adelaide, South Australia, on Nov. 16, 1996, when it broke through a hard layer of sediment on the seabed, about 130 feet below sea level. The drilling rig and its three legs incurred substantial damage.
The report noted that "deficiencies in management systems and procedures" necessary for correctly positioning the rig on the seabed contributed to the accident.
Walter Stewart, manager of marine environment and safety for the Department of Transport & Marine Safety for South Australia, said the rig's legs had to be separated from the rig before they could be recovered.
Salvage and retrieval of the rig's legs took eight weeks, he said.
The Maersk Victory is owned by Denmark's Maersk Contractors, a wholly owned subsidiary of A.P. Moller. Both are based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Mr. Stewart said the Department of Marine's major concern during the salvage was that the rig would spill oil, causing large-scale environmental damage, but that did not occur.
The South Australia report concluded that if government safety standards and procedures had been effectively implemented, the accident may have been prevented. Among other things, the government standards require a "safety case" to be filed that analyze the potential risks of major projects like rig transport. The report found that the Maersk Victory's safety case was inadequate and, in any event, was not followed.
The department's report found the rig operators had paid insufficient attention to evaluating the potential risks to moving the rig, particularly in an area where a rig of that kind had not been used before.
Investigators also found a lack of geotechnical information to assess the seabed's ability to support the rig stemmed from errors in judgment. The actual performance of the sub-sea sediments was different from original predictions, the report noted.
The report also found major deficiencies in quality and risk minimization procedures in the operation.
Overall, the investigators said in the report, "systems were in place, but not fully effective."
The report recommended the oil industry develop a better way to check that safety procedures are documented and followed for major offshore drilling projects.
The report recommends all parties involved in the Maersk Victory accident review their management systems and procedures and make necessary changes to ensure compliance with South Australia's regulations.
Management systems should ensure all contracts for services with the potential to cause a hazard are adequate and all parties should know their requirements, the report recommends.
The Maersk Victory, made in Japan in 1981, operated in waters off the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, drilling in 55 locations from 1981 until it was damaged by explosions and a fire after an airplane attack in the Iran-Iraq war. After repairs to two legs, the rig was returned to service.
It was moved to Australia in April 1996 and was used to drill on the North-West Shelf, a rich oil and gas field off Western Australia, until it was moved to South Australia in November 1996. The accident occurred during its installation in the waters off South Australia.