Despite the passing of the first anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico tragedy aboard the Deepwater Horizon, the star-crossed rig owned by Transocean (NYSE: RIG), Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO) -- the other member of the deepwater drilling duo -- essentially made a mockery of analysts' expectations for its most recent quarter.

For the quarter, the company reported earnings of $251 million, or $1.80 per share. A year ago, when conditions included both higher dayrates and lower operating expenses, the company reported earnings of $291 million, or $2.09 a share. Despite the year-on-year decline, the most recent quarter represented a strong thrashing of the $1.42 per share that analysts had arrived at as their consensus expectation. Total revenues for the quarter were $806.4 million, a 6.2% decline from $859.7 million a year ago.

Along with its operating results, the company announced that, as in recent quarters, it will issue a special cash dividend of $0.75 per share. The special dividend, along with Diamond Offshore's regular dividend of $0.125 per share, will be paid on June 1 to shareholders on record by May 2.

At present, Diamond Offshore operates a fleet that soon will include 32 semisubmersible rigs, 13 jack-ups, and three dynamically positioned rigs. Of the last-mentioned rig classification, two of the three remain under construction, with delivery anticipated during 2013. Currently, 14 of the company's units are contracted in Brazil, five are in the Gulf of Mexico, and others are operating in such diverse locations as Angola, the North Sea, Australia, and Mexico.

In discussing his company's results, CEO Lawrence Dickerson said, "We were very pleased with the operating results … we had some of the lowest unanticipated equipment downtime that we've recorded in many, many quarters."

He went on to note that, "… we've worked very hard. We've got lots of programs dealing with responding to preventive maintenance … we're very pleased with that. We also had a very low amount of shipyard and job preparation and [mobilization] time in the quarter." Indeed, as he pointed out, the 168 total days spent in those activities (or lack thereof) during the quarter represented a 100-day decline from the fourth quarter of 2010 and a far larger drop from the 570 days so taken up in last year's third quarter.

In describing the activity levels in some of the world's key offshore venues, Morrison Plaisance, Diamond's vice president of marketing, said, "We're seeing some strengthening in … southeast Asia. West Africa continues to show some activity … other than the Gulf of Mexico, we see the market as doing well."

All in all, and given the rocky year that the contract drillers have just completed, Diamond Offshore's results and accompanying call were quite positive. And while we'll gain additional color on the industry's expectations from scheduled reports from the likes of Transocean, Rowan (NYSE: RDC), and Hercules Offshore (Nasdaq: HERO), I'd urge Fools to add Diamond to My Watchlist, our free, customized stock monitoring service.    

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.