Gulf Cleanup and The Jones Act


"Of the 750 oil-skimming vessels in the Gulf, 0 are foreign."

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed one eye-opening statistic on the eve of tropical storm Bonnie: "There are 750 domestic oil-skimming vessels and 0 foreign vessels in the Gulf. . ."

BP broke down the number: "522 inshore, 155 near-shore and 73 offshore oil skimmers."

No wonder foreign governments, from Norway to Japan, have been frustrated and perplexed as the U.S. government micromanaged the wrong aspects of the catastrophe.

The Netherlands' offer of the oil-skimming Mellina—its third offer of high-tech assistance—was eventually turned down over a month later. It seems America is telling the world, "If you're a foreigner, stand at the back of the line and wait."

In May, Norwegian offshore specialty firm Framo offered BP several Transrec 150s to help and was turned down.

Regarding the "750 vessels," mainstream press has reported, "the American-made, smaller weir skimmers are inferior—they clog easily when oil viscosity thickens into a "chocolate mousse."

BP engineers stripped and dumbed-down rigid sweeping arms off the Dutch Koseq, then fitted them onto an American craft (with 1/20th the oil-skimming capacity) and manned it with Americans unfamiliar with its systems.

Framo VP Bendt Nilsen and other foreign oil executives noted that the Jones Act, which restricts use of foreign vessels for domestic purposes, blocked foreign aid.

"The Jones Act," Nilsen wrote, "was detrimental to the assistance from overseas countries, even if the verdict states clearly that oil-skimming operation is not subject to the Jones Act. Norway would have been able to bring over a fleet of their state-of-the-art oil recovery vessels immediately—as compared to the delays introduced by the political negotiations."

If politics weren't part of the Gulf-spill equation, the independent investigation into the reasons behind the blowout and response failures wouldn't wait until January 2011 to go to President Obama.

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