Permitted to be powerful? A comparison of the possibilities to regulate safety in the Norwegian petroleum and maritime industries

Studio Apertura

​This paper examines the link between formal authority and executive power by comparing two supervising authorities in two related industries. It includes an analysis of regulations and statements of the Norwegian Petroleum Safety Authority and the Norwegian Maritime Authority regarding the power to influence industry safety. Safety in both industries relies primarily on functional regulations, whereby the companies develop their own safety measures, which the authorities advise upon and control. A closer look at the two agencies reveals inequalities in power, despite their equal formal safety authority and similar regulatory regimes.

The Maritime Authority´s power is impeded by its objective to facilitate maritime safety and to be a preferred administrative body among a large number of globally mobile, low-income companies. This enables the companies to implement only the minimum safety standards. In contrast, the petroleum industry context supports the Petroleum Safety Authority’s ability to exercise multiple power dimensions while ensuring that the resourceful companies develop high safety standards. In sum, each industry’s regulatory potential seems to be hinged on its characteristics, objectives, and resources that the relevant authority is given.

Further, this study shows that successfully enforced self-regulation requires both the regulated and the regulators to have sufficient resources. Successful regulation demands political safety support, especially in global industries with viability problems. In practice, these findings can be viewed as a warning to governments not to take safety measures lightly, even in times of cost cutting.