Shell Arctic oil-spill barge not yet certified by Coast Guard

A 294-foot barge being outfitted by a Shell Oil contractor in Bellingham, Wash., to stand by in case of an oil spill during Arctic drilling this summer has not yet been certified by the Coast Guard. Shell and the federal government are arguing over whether drilling can start without the Arctic Challenger onsite, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Shell officials say the systems aboard the Arctic Challenger are part of the company's "tertiary" response and not specifically required by federal regulation. They would be deployed only in the unlikely event that the well's built-in blowout preventer failed, and then the capping stack failed to completely check the resulting flow.

But Nicholas Pardi of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said the containment system is part of the company's approved oil spill response plan, and the company is required to get it certified by the Coast Guard before drilling permits can be issued. "We need a positive test on the containment system as one of our conditions," he said.

The Coast Guard says it believes problems delaying the barge can be corrected in time for the drilling window, expected to start in early August.

Read more at the L.A. Times: Shell may be ready for the Arctic, but its oil spill barge isn't