Transocean rig off Africa taking on water

The owner of the rig that sank in the massive Gulf oil spill last summer was having problems Wednesday with another one of its deepwater drillers — this time off the coast of Africa.

Transocean Ltd. spokesman Guy Cantwell told The Associated Press that the rig called Marianas began to take on water near Ghana as it was preparing to move to another location. The rig, currently under contract to Italian oil company Eni, was not drilling at the time. It's a moored semi-submersible rig that lifts its anchors when it prepares to move. It was doing that at the time of the mishap.

Transocean evacuated 108 nonessential workers as a precaution. Thirteen remained on board to monitor the situation. Cantwell described the situation as stable and under control, though he could not say for sure whether workers were able to stop water from coming aboard. No one has been injured, he said. An investigation was under way, and Cantwell said it was too soon to speculate on what caused the Marianas to take on water.

On Oct. 21, 2009, the Transocean Marianas arrived on location to start drilling an exploration well on the Macondo prospect in the Gulf. Several days later, drilling commenced, but was halted on Nov. 28, 2009, when the Marianas underwent repairs for damage caused by Hurricane Ida. British oil giant BP leased another rig, the Deepwater Horizon, to complete drilling operations on its well a mile beneath the sea. The Deepwater Horizon began its work in February 2010.

Two months later, 11 workers were killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded off Louisiana, leading to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

Swiss-based Transocean has been under scrutiny since the Gulf disaster, but the company has largely blamed others, especially BP, for what happened in the Gulf.

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said in a statement Wednesday the fact that the Marianas originally drilled the well that eventually blew and resulted in the Gulf spill shows that deepwater offshore drilling "was, is, and will continue to be an inherently risky business until the highest possible safety standards are put in place in America and worldwide."

There was no immediate comment from Eni.

Transocean's stock fell Wednesday by $2.04, or 3.2 percent, to $62.23. Some analysts called it an overreaction.


Cappiello reported from Washington and Weber reported from Atlanta.