Drilling Ship Held in Alaskan Port over Safety and Pollution Concerns

The drilling ship is being investigated for worker safety concerns and issues with pollution control equipment.

A drilling ship has been held off the coast of Alaska while crew safety and pollution control are being investigated. The ship is one of two used by Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

The 571-foot Noble Discoverer has been ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard to remain in port in Seward until employee safety concerns were addressed, in addition to problems with pollution control equipment.

The ship experienced a vibration problem in early November with its propulsion system. Following this issue, inspectors noticed numerous safety issues. There were 16 issues discovered, and six already have been addressed.

Noble Corporation posted a statement Dec. 27 saying it is "working cooperatively and diligently to rectify deficiencies and maintenance issues" raised by the Coast Guard during its recent inspection of the ship, following what the statement described as a successful drilling season in offshore Alaska.

"The Coast Guard has identified several components and systems aboard the Company's drillship for attention, including the ship's propulsion and safety management systems," it said. "In connection with Noble's internal review independent of the Coast Guard inspection, Noble reported certain other potential regulatory non-compliance issues that it discovered relating to its operations, including possible unauthorized collected water discharges outside the period of drilling operations. Noble has already resolved a number of the issues with the Noble Discoverer identified by the Coast Guard and plans to complete the remaining items during the previously scheduled shipyard stay in Washington. The drillship is currently being mobilized to the shipyard. Noble and Royal Dutch Shell (the current customer for the Noble Discoverer), in coordination with the Coast Guard, are also reviewing the drillship's operations in Alaska and the impact of the 2012 arctic operating conditions with the intent of further strengthening the readiness of the drillship and the other drilling assets for 2013. Additionally, the Company is developing an enhanced plan designed to ensure its drilling rigs and their related management procedures are in compliance with applicable maritime laws and leading industry practices."

Noble is an offshore drilling contractor with a fleet of 79 offshore drilling units, including five ultra-deepwater rigs and six jackup drilling rigs currently under construction. For more information, visit http://www.noblecorp.com.

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