"Surprise inspections of deepwater drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico dwindled to about three a year over the past decade, even as exploratory drilling far from shore increased, according to federal data analyzed by The Wall Street Journal.
And since 2004 federal authorities haven't made a single surprise inspection on any of the 50 or so deepwater natural gas and oil production platforms in the Gulf, despite a law requiring periodic unannounced inspections. Like rigs, these semi-permanent structures also handle enormous amounts of oil and natural gas and are at risk for oil spills and worker fatalities.
This dearth of surprise visits to deepwater operations reduced the likelihood that inspectors would find individual safety violations, industry experts and inspectors say. "
Russell Gold reports for the Wall St. Journal October 11, 2010.