U.S.: Oil rig bound for Cuba meets int’l standards

HAVANA (AP) — A U.S. inspection of a Chinese-made oil rig due to begin drilling in waters off Cuba has determined that it meets international safety norms, the American government said Monday.

A statement issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior said members of its Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard completed its review of the Scarabeo-9 rig on Monday in Trinidad.

The inspection covered everything from the platform’s drilling equipment and safety systems to generators and the blowout preventer.

“U.S. personnel found the vessel to generally comply with existing international and U.S. standards by which (Spanish oil company) Repsol has pledged to abide,” the safety bureau said in a statement.

Plans to drill for oil off Cuba have raised concerns from some environmentalists and U.S. politicians who fear a repeat of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 workers and spilled more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Repsol YPF, which holds the rights to an exploration block off Cuba covering more than 1,700 square miles (nearly 4,500 square kilometers), has repeatedly said the Scarabeo-9 meets U.S. specifications and technical requirements. Havana officials say it boasts the safest, most modern technology available.

The safety bureau added that neither it nor the Coast Guard have any authority over the Cuba operation, and noted that the review “does not confer any form of certification or endorsement under U.S. or international law.”

It also said U.S. authorities are stepping up local spill-preparedness efforts and coordinating with other countries in the region.

“In anticipation of an increase in drilling activities in the Caribbean Basin and Gulf of Mexico, the United States is participating in multilateral discussions with the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico on a broad range of issues including, drilling safety, ocean modeling, and oil spill preparedness and response,” the statement said.

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