WSJ piece that says oil rig blowout in Gulf "has prompted scrutiny of the U.S. Coast Guard's ability to carry out even its limited role in preventing disaster on rigs."
CG naturally replies that it's short on resources.
Title quote comes from Lt. Cmdr. Michael Odom, who--career-wise--is just the right age to offer that judgment (been in long enough to spot the rule-set gap, and with enough of a career ahead of him to take it seriously).
The facts: USCG regs for the massive moving regs date back to 1978, when they were smaller and operated mostly just offshore.
Even when the USCG does get involved, it's mostly paperwork, because the regulation of the rigs lies with the Interior Dept's Minerals Management Service.
Most experts argue to revisit this regulatory split in light of the recent disaster.
But here's the hitch, just like with ships, most of the rigs are under foreign flags, meaning the nation of registry is responsible for oversight.
The Transocean rig that went to the bottom was registered under the Republic of Marshall Islands, which in turn hired a private contractor to do any inspections--a common industry practice for such states.
When the USCG shows up to any rig, the difference in review shows: foreign rigs get the hours-long treatment but US-registered rigs get the days-long review.
Underlying tone: 2007 independent assessment by fmr USCG Vice Admiral found that, once the USCG got sucked into the Department of Homeland Security, safety maintenance work went out the window in favor of c-terrorism.