And the reporters make themselves much clearer in an interview with the Huffington Post Investigative Fund than they do in their own story:

At the time of the explosion, when gas alarms sounded, the captain waited for the drilling manager to get out of the shower to approve his pushing of an emergency disconnect button — the result of a command structure that puts a drilling manager in charge, not a captain. That structure is established by the Marshall Islands.

“The details are hazy in terms of whether it had been more like 5 minutes or 20 minutes,” Geiger said. “But the problem was that there was a system where a captain was second-guessing himself, wondering whether they were facing a real emergency and whether he was the one in charge.”

Those were crucial moments. “Disaster could have been averted,” noted Hamburger. “It’s expensive to push these emergency switches, so the captain felt he needed to check with the drilling manager. Obviously we can’t say for sure it would have worked, but it was an opportunity that was missed because of this managing structure.”

That’s great stuff, but it should have been in their own story. It wasn’t. Here’s what we got instead:

The Deepwater Horizon captain testified to investigators last month that he conferred with the drilling manager before he attempted to disconnect the rig. By the time a crew member decided on his own to push the emergency disconnect, it was too late.

It’s not hard to see that these overlapping jurisdictions, at a minimum, couldn’t make things clearer or easier in the event of a disaster. And it’s quite likely it made them worse.

This one’s worth further investigation.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.