International standards are currently being developed under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (INCO) which can profoundly affect the design, operation and cost of Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODU's). Other vessels and equipment used in offshore oil operations will also be studied by IMCO and could be similarly affected.
Progress to date suggests that such standards will be excessive and needlessly costly for equipment to be operated in moderate environments.
Such standards will almost certainly be adopted by the United States Coast Guard to apply to all such equipment built in the United States as a condition of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) convention.
Although such standards will apply only to equipment used in international waters, the domestic offshore oil industry will be impacted by the increased cost of operating this equipment in domestic waters and by the probable evolution of the same standards to equipment used only in domestic waters.
Active involvement of knowledgeable people representing the domestic industry is mandatory if the particular needs of the domestic offshore oil industry are to be accommodated in these international standards.
The 1970's have brought increased regulation to all United States industries in the name of protecting the environment and/or increasing the safety of the operation. While all industries have been affected, the offshore oil industry has borne more than its share of these new regulations.
For those who find comfort in numbers, there may be solace in the realization that other countries around the world also have found the offshore oil industry a good target for increased regulation. The United Kingdom, Norway, France, Germany and USSR are among those active in this area. Significantly, much of this foreign regulatory activity is being accomplished without benefit of industry input or assistance. It follows that standards and regulations may differ markedly among countries.
Activities in the North Sea during the past ten years have brought particular attention to differing regulatory requirements for Mobile Offshore Drilling Units. Most of the MODU?s used in the early work in the North Sea were built in the United States to domestic industry practices and specifications. In the relatively small area of the North Sea, the operator has frequently found that a short move into the territorial waters of an adjoining country called for a substantial modification of the drilling unit because of differing regulations. Hence, in Europe, there developed a strong awareness of regulatory requirements of neighboring coastal states and an early recognition of the need for common rules. United States drilling contractors with worldwide operations also have recognized the desirability of having common standards for constructing and out fitting Mobile Offshore Drilling Units and have encouraged the United States Coast Guard to establish national standards for such units. During the past two years, this effort has extended to the international level in IMCO.
Unfortunately, the domestic offshore oil industry has been slow to recognize the significance Of this movement toward international standards for MODU?s. Due to the long history of offshore