Global governance in the offshore sector
What happens when something happens? Accidents in the offshore industry can have devastating consequences. The IMO is therefore calling for a global approach.
It does not take horrendous accidents like the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 for us to fully understand the effects that unforeseen events in the offshore industry can have. Yet there are no transnational standards to regulate the industry. Now the secretary general of the IMO, Koji Sekimizu, has called on players in the shipping and offshore sectors to explore the possibility of global governance standards for the offshore segment similar to those in shipping.
In his keynote address to the offshore marine forum at the Sea Asia conference, held in Singapore in April, the secretary general pointed out that the sector is a relatively young industry as far as the IMO is concerned – in stark contrast to shipping, which already is strictly regulated in areas such as shipping operations, environment and the avoidance and prevention of accidents and oil spills, to name just a few. For offshore oil fields, on the other hand, all the responsibility for regulating the industry is squarely on the shoulders of the state in which the drilling or other offshore activity is taking place. This makes it very difficult to enforce a global governance regime, Sekimizu said.
Michael Chia, the managing director of Keppel Offshore & Marine, a company that is headquartered in Singapore, is of the same view. In a talk at the offshore forum he stated that he considered a global approach to be a major challenge, because such activities are considered to take place in national territorial waters, and therefore specific national regulations and laws determine what happens there.
According to Sekimizu there is no immediate solution in sight. The first step in his view is for industry players to get together to work out what the framework for cooperation with an international organisation such as the IMO might look like.