SAN FRANCISCO – Some leading offshore drilling contractors, after reporting declines in quarterly profits, said on Thursday there were encouraging signs for activity in the Gulf of Mexico next year despite a shortage of permits.

Noble Corp., the second-largest offshore drilling contractor by fleet size, said it was even possible one of its deepwater rigs could get back to work in the U.S. Gulf by the end of this year.
This month, the U.S. government lifted a moratorium on deepwater drilling imposed after the BP blowout six months ago that led to a huge oil spill off Louisiana’s coast.