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Red Tape Keeps Oil Skimmers from Gulf

From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Red tape keeps prized oil-fighting skimmers from Gulf, coastline

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just weeks after the oil spill crisis began to unfold in the Gulf of Mexico, the French foreign minister volunteered a fleet of oil skimming boats from a French company, Ecoceane. A month later, in early June, Ecoceane Chief Executive Eric Vial met with BP and Coast Guard officials to present the idea…

But after that meeting, weeks went by with little contact as oil continued gushing into the Gulf. A frustrated Vial was able to get around the bureacracy [sic] last week only when his company sold nine of the oil collection boats to a private contractor in Florida, who could then put the boats to work.

Thereby getting around the Jones Act, which mandates that all such boats be US owned and operated.

Oil giant Shell was in negotiations to let BP use the Nanuq, a 300-foot oil recovery boat sitting idle in Seward, Alaska. But in recent weeks, BP declined to bring it to the Gulf.

"Nothing would prevent it from working right now in the Gulf of Mexico," said Curtis Smith, a spokesman for Shell Alaska. "It remains available in the event that BP reconsiders." …

"We want all the skimming vessels in the world deployed," said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. "This is an oil spill bigger than anything we’ve ever seen. It’s a national disaster. We’re at war. If you were at war and in charge, would you deploy everything you had to win the war?"

Indeed. And how many times has Mr. Obama claimed to be doing everything he can?

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander for the oil spill, acknowledged recently that "Skimmers are our critical mass right now. We need to put those wherever we can get them. And we want to get them from wherever they are available."

But federal response officials have been pressed for more than a week to streamline U.S. maritime restrictions that would allow more foreign skimming vessels to be put to work on the spill. And the Coast Guard and BP have been taken to task for not bringing more available U.S. skimmers to the Gulf spill.

According to the latest numbers from BP, 433 vessels are collecting oil in the Gulf, but less than a third of those are specialized boats designed specifically for oil skimming.

On the Senate floor last week, Sen. George LeMieux, R-Fla., pointed to a Coast Guard map detailing more than 850 skimmers available in the southeastern United States — and more than 1,600 available in the continental United States.

"We are literally talking about more than a thousand skimmers that are available, but we only have 400 – if this number is correct — at work," LeMieux said. "It is hard to believe that the response is this anemic; it is hard to believe that there is this lack of urgency or sense of purpose in getting this done."

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires regions to have minimum levels of equipment such as boom and skimmers, making it difficult for every oil-fighting resource to be directed to the Gulf of Mexico.

Note that once again, it is the federal regulations themselves that are holding up the process. Federal regulations that could and should be easily waived for this crisis. (And, for once, Mr. Obama has a real crisis.)

Allen acknowledged the hurdle last week, saying that there are "discussions we’re having across the entire country where we have equipment that’s out there as a requirement — legal requirement to cover spill response of those areas — and how we might free those up. That’s a work in progress inside the administration right now."

"Right now"? How many weeks has this been going on?

Regarding international skimming vessels, Allen said earlier this month that the government would work to quickly process waivers of the Jones Act, a 1920 maritime law that promotes U.S. shipping interests.

So why haven’t they? (See below.)

But he has downplayed the importance of the law in prohibiting foreign boats seeking to aid in the Gulf spill response.

The law prevents foreign crews and foreign ships from transporting goods between U.S. ports; in the Deepwater Horizon case, the "port" would be where the oil is collected offshore. Allen has said that many of the foreign-flagged boats are working the spill more than three miles offshore, meaning they would not be carrying oil to a separate port on shore.

"While we have not seen any need to waive the Jones Act as part of this historic response, we continue to prepare for all possible scenarios," Allen said. "Should any waivers be needed, we are prepared to process them as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay."

But Vial of Ecoceane, the French oil spill response company, said the Jones Act and other difficulties getting through to BP prevented his company from putting boats to work sooner. He has boats that could work offshore, but also smaller models that would be best suited in shallower inland waters within the three-mile limit.

"We could have sent boats earlier, but we wanted to make sure that if we sent our boats, they could be used in the U.S., because of the Jones Act," Vial said in an interview translated from French.

In the end, he sold nine of the spill response boats to a Florida company last week, which made them American boats and circumvented the problems with the Jones Act

"To respond to the crisis, whether it’s BP or the U.S. government, they may have created too many administrative steps and barriers that are making the whole process much lengthier," he said.

Sens. LeMieux, Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, have proposed legislation that would temporarily waive the Jones Act for oil spill response vessels.

Why hasn’t this sailed through Congress? Are the Democrats preventing its passage? Are they really that enslaved to the unions?

Although there is a Jones Act waiver process for foreign vessels during an oil spill, the law requires that the Coast Guard make a determination that "an adequate number" of U.S. oil spill response vessels "cannot be engaged to recover oil from an oil spill in or near those waters in a timely manner." And the foreign country offering the boats must agree to allow the United States similar privileges in their country.

Are we supposed to believe that these thresholds have not been met? Of course they have.

As of last week, no Jones Act waivers had been granted. According to the joint information center for the response, six vessels involved in oil containment have applied for Jones Act waivers that are still pending.

And yet the Admiral Allen was just quoted above as saying that the government would waive the Jones Act if they were asked to, so that the skimmers could get to work "without delay."

Apparently, they have been asked and they still haven’t waived the Jones Act.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, June 29th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

12 Responses to “Red Tape Keeps Oil Skimmers from Gulf”

  1. NoNeoCommies says:

    “Red” tape?
    Is that what they call it when a Marxist president does everything possible to make things worse?

  2. proreason says:

    Pay attention America.

    This is what happens when you defy the little emperor.

  3. AcornsRNutz says:

    Ok, call me crazy, but if all oil drilling in deepwater is suspended and all shallow water guys can’t get any permits, what is the danger of waiving federal regulations about numbers of response vessels in other areas? Even the shell boat, which seems to be squarely on BP for not being employed (if this article is to be fully believed) doesn’t begin to compare with the sheer conscious effort to prevent a cleanup by the federal govenrment and obama specifically. This guy can pass massive laws by proclamation, but can’t waive a few silly regulations? Conspicuosly not noted by the press, he hasn’t even delcared the area a federal disaster, which may in fact make all this federal intervention illegal. Oh, there were some screw-ups during katrina, but this mess is frighteningly calculated by the current regime.

  4. AcornsRNutz says:


    I typed “has the president declared the gulf spill a federal disaster” into ask.com and this was the closest thing I could find to a response. The majority of the hits were (surprise) links on how to sue BP and get federal money for your pain and suffering if you lived down there. I encourage you to check out this link and note the title. THen note that it isn’t mentioned until the very last paragraph that indeed the declaration was made, by the states, but no mention of a federal response. Now I understand this is an old article, but why hasn’t there been anything that would match my query even remotely since that date? On the whole internet?

    Tell me this doesn’t contrast starkly with GWB having to demand that LA declare an emregency so he could deploy federal assets to NOLA after katrina. This is despicable.

  5. Right of the People says:

    The big O-hole hasn’t milked this crisis enough yet. There is something else he wants to slip by the public and needs the distraction of the oil spill to do it. Once he gets what he wants suddenly the red tape will vanish and it will be a “priority” to get this spill cleaned up so his libwit environazi buddies will be happy again and continue donating to his re-election fund.

  6. tranquil.night says:

    BigOil said it best yesterday:

    “I’d say this defacto offshore drilling ban is not at all stealthy. It is simply a continuation of the ongoing use of bureaucracy and the permitting process to stifle energy developement.

    Why even bother passing Cap and Tax when the federal bureaucracy in the executive branch can achieve the same result? Green energy can only be price competitive by choking off the supply of affordable forms of energy.”

    That’s why Barack’s activist response was very predictable. On the one hand it’s just “plug the damn hole BP” but just watch the evasiveness when it comes to questions about the containment missteps. The LSM is completely blacking out the moratorium news and now calling on people to quit the blame game and work together?

    They want the disaster. They want the joblessness. It’s win/win/win for them. It’s more claims they get to shakedown, more people dependent on government unemployment, and a deathblow to domestic energy production.

    • Rusty Shackleford says:

      tn, you make an interesting point. But it’s missing an element.

      What is lacking in the liberal mind is the connect-the-dots tool. I was only in my teens when Carter created the gas shortages. Perhaps he thought that somehow, we’d all grow our own internal powerplants due to some divine intervention and we suddenly wouldn’t need oil anymore.

      But as I’ve been saying for years, there are NO alternate means of producing energy to the levels this society requires. You could cover the entire nation with windmills and not have the power needed to run this country.

      The liberal mind is a horrible thing. When offered the option of clean, bountiful energy to power our homes with nuclear energy, they opposed it. My parents built a home in 1969 that is all electric. When the blueprints were signed, nuke power was the thing…and every state was going to have them, and electricity was gonna be cheap. Until the freaks got ahold of it and ruined it for everyone. I’ll bet you if every state had nuclear power plants, the ONLY argument would be a bunch of fringe nutters protesting expired nuclear fuel rods, because electricity would be so cheap, they’d not even feel it.

      The left continues down the path of technological development which is more wishful thinking than anything else. Since the invention of the solar cell, its efficiency has not been increased substantially. A few percentage points. Sure, it’s useful. Wind-powered generators? Same thing. And many(most) of them in this nation that are already in place are….BROKEN. Sure, people see the big blades spinning around but a large majority of them aren’t producing diddly.

      So, according to the liberals, if we shut off all oil, we will suddenly find ourselves in a solar-cell/windfarm utopia. This is fractured thinking. This is like taking the clothes from a child to teach them that it’s cold outside. And it’s just as negative in its result.

      The liberal would argue, “Well, all that money that normally would go into drilling for more oil would instead go into research and produce more efficient means of getting energy”.

      And my answer to that has always been “From WHERE? SPACE?” , which is always met with blank stares. The logic-disconnect in their minds is complete.

      My argument from months past goes like this: Using liberal logic, if Queen Isabella had thrown sufficient quantities of money at our friend, Chris C., he would have somehow developed steam power. More money? Nuke power for his ships to more efficiently cruise the waters and bring back treasure to Spain.

      Most people of a thinking nature can see the flaw. But when you address a liberal who is also an “intellectual”, they will argue that “funding does accelerate hardware development”. To which I reply, “Yes, but you can’t make a rock turn into a fish with it”. Again with the blank stares.

      Liberals think that government and “think-tanks” are the solution to all the worlds ills. That if a sufficient number of smart people can just get together and think (really hard) that there will be no disease, no hunger, no war.

      But then, the average liberal, being rather confident in their opinions, never accounts for human frailty. Greed, corruption, ego, etc. But then, is it any big surprise to find the vast majority of people on the left are immune to their own shortcomings? The answer to that is because their “good intentions” trump any “misdeeds”.

      I’m pretty convinced that being a liberal is a disease. It has all the earmarks of one. And, only in rare cases is it curable. For, in order to really accomplish a cure, the infected has to admit they were wrong about, well, pretty much everything. And with the “intellectuals”, say, for example, Hitlery Clinton….she would have to admit her degree in political science is useless in terms of physics and engineering, or even which fork to use.

      I’ve met a TON of “brilliant” people. But they are highly specialized. That, in and of itself is not bad but how can a person go through life and not be aware of certain things. For example, the brilliant scholar is having car trouble and he takes his vehicle to the shop. The technician notices a loose plug wire but, noting the scholar’s large bank account, tells him the engine must be “flushed and re-calibrated”. So he’s got to have it for the week as it takes some time.

      Scholar ignorantly agrees and the technician goes and parks the car in back for a week. Scholar comes back, pays the tech $359.77 for “labor and parts”. Tech has reattached the loose plug wire and both parties are quite satisfied.

      Happens all the time.

      But that’s just the smallest of examples. The intellectuals, in and of themselves are not “bad”. It’s the insufferable egos and self-absorption that cripple them; Make them blind to seeing any other way but “their ” way. Then, to make it worse, they surround themselves with people of a similar stripe and it gets worse and spirals downward into a dysfunctional mess. This is where we are in our current situation. We are being “managed” by people who are trying very hard to achieve socialism who can’t even understand the remote control to the TV.

      They firmly believe that they know best. They see all these people and “wouldn’t it be great if they all worked for the people (the government)?” Sure, there’ll be some sour grapes, but when they see that they have their whole lives taken care of, there will be no want, no crime, no trouble of any kind.

      However, many are questioning their motives, as I do. Because you cannot have been alive in the last few decades and NOT seen the evil that socialism fosters. Which, by logical extension, makes our current government extremely suspect when they pull little statist tricks like “healthcare” and “too big to fail”.

      They squelch the notions that our monumental failures in this nation have brought about change and some very interesting ones at that. The automobile…a paradigm shift in how the US does pretty much everything, resulted in the failure of many a railroad. But if prince-of-ears obama was in charge, cars would be prohibited from manufacture with huge “stimulus” money going into the coffers of railroads.

      Then, there’s the suspicion of “what’s he REALLY up to?”. He can’t be THAT stupid, can he?

      And here is where I have to agree with many. At first I thought barry the boy blunder was just stupid. But no. I see it now as the move, the PUSH to marxism because he wants it all. He’s tasted life at the top and he likes it. He is currently scheming on how to stay there, but if that should fall through, he is socking away cash..and planning on how to milk his lecture tour for maximum profitability. But his first goal is dictator for life. And even if I’m wrong about that, I have to consider everything he does from that angle. Because…he is pouring the footings for a socialist state and it’s a very dangerous thing.

      When I was 21 I would never have thought it could happen here but there are so many stupid, ignorant, foolish people out there that buy into his (their) crap under all sorts of various sound-good/feel-good premises. Global warming, green technology, etc etc etc.

      It staggers the mind.

    • proreason says:

      missing “connect the dots” tool?

      nah. not many. You give them too much credit by letting them be stupid.

      They’re just liars.

      The can connect the dots just fine. But they know that to get their agenda implemented, they can’t say it out loud.

      So they lie. So often, in fact, that what the typical liberal says is more likely a lie than not.

      And what is that agenda? In a nutshell, 4 words: “What’s yours is mine”. The environmental “thought leaders” think that way. They are either trying to destroy their enemies (Joe Kennedy), cynically profitting (Al Toad), or seeking power (Pelosi, Obamy, etc.), which is another form of “What’s yours is mine”.

      But there are also liberals who are more brainwashed than liars. I know an environment hugger like that. It makes him feel superior. He probaly is an example of a failure to connect the dots.

    • AcornsRNutz says:

      You are pretty much spot on as usual. The issue, to my lay understanding, with these alternative energy sources is scale. On a small level, individual systems at the household level, they work passably as a backup or for someone who has very small power demands. The problems arise when these silly items are used to create a “grid”. Modulation of the fluctuations in power output, particularly from windmills, is required to maintain control over the supply of power to the houses plugged in to the grid. THis modulation is possible, but extremely inefficient, as you can not create more power when it lapses, so you can only cut it back when it surges. Again, I am no engineer here, but this seems like common sense. None of these things can produce energy as smoothly as the systems like coal and nuke, where the output and the demand can very nearly mirror each other exactly. When you factor in the maintenance and the sheer amount of land needed to install wind and solar, the whole system falls flatly on its face. These idiots want all of that, and yet want a “smart grid” that can control everyone’s power consumption. Impossible. Add to that the simple fact that government funding is the only funding that provides more money when nothing is acheived and runs out when the goal is reached (directly opposite of the private funding route), and you can guarantee that even if some miralce energy source exists, we won’t ever see it if the gov pays to get it.

      But bet your rear end that the ruling class will have acres of solar and wind farms to power their mansions that are connected to no grid of any kind. All paid for by money they stole from us. It’s not just myopic or stupid, its diabolical.

  7. canary says:

    The red tape is Obama.
    OSHA is saying workers can only work 20 minutes an hour.
    EPA is saying the booms are harming animals
    Union’s are playing the Jones act.
    Obama is the one not ordering troops.

    The media is back to not listing U.S. soldier casualties, but counting birds and turles. The animals rights people are evil to make them suffer. It’s the darn truth that spraying them is traumatizing them, and they probably won’t live anyways. And it’s wrong to prolong helpless animals suffering & dying.
    It is disrespectful and hurtful and harms the grieving process when the government ignores a soldier’s lost life at war defending this country.

  8. marcleriot says:

    There is skimming and skimming.

    I do not know if Eric Vial lied in person to you.
    I know that the information about the Ecoceane Skimmers is untrue.
    I am an independent journalist and was on assignment in the USA for one week in early June to cover this particular Issue for the Figaro Magazine, a French News and Entertainment magazine.
    At the time a newly launched environmental group, The Blues Seals were trying their best to get those boats in.
    Those shimmers would have been long in the water if that had been Eric Vial’s intention.
    Eric Vial, the CEO of Ecoceane, whose English is sketchy at best met on the 10th of June with a BP official and a Coast Guard decider whose name he could not remember to present what he calls his proposition.

    The blue Seals had offered to pay to ship all available Ecoceane skimmers to the gulf and politicians like Congressman Bob Filner from San Diego, CA had vowed to help brake the Jones Act if needed.
    There was a press conference held to that effect in New Orleans on the 8th of June.

    What really delayed those boats was Greed.
    It was Eric Vial who chose to wait.

    I attended a meeting Between Ecoceane’e team and the Blue Seals financiers on the 10th of June.
    It was held in Eric Vial’s suite on the 14th floor of the Intercontinental hotel.
    I actually acted as an interpreter that day to try and avoid some of the discrepancies I had heard on the day of the press conference.
    The fact is that Eric Vial was waiting for BP to make a commercial decision.

    Also this would have been his favourite choice, he was actual waiting for any one willing to purchase his boats cash for that matter.

    Vial reminded me in an interview produced on the 13th of June in New Orleans Louisiana. “If we were to put and use our boats in the gulf now it would be under our responsibility as the owners.
    We can not afford to take such risks. We sale boats. If Blue Seals want to purchase boats I will sale them boats.

    So if originally the American Government and BP may not have chosen to retain the offer for the French skimmers, made by the French government, ultimately the Jones Act is not what delayed the French Skimmers intervention.
    The Ecoceane boats were never refused access in the USA under that pretence.
    On the 22th of June Eric Vial wrote to me that the Jones Act if now officially waived for the Ecocean vessels.
    I have since obtained a copy of the said waiver.
    Eric Vial sold all of his boats shortly after that to AshBritt who had to pay the whole 2 million Euros upfront.
    Unfortunately for Ecoceane that sale included the trial vessel that had just landed in Port Everglades leaving them with nothing to show for but Videos.

    I will add here that the Blue Seals had offered to help set up the construction, the assembly of 100 ecoceane skimmers in the gulf states using War Veterans.
    Eric Vial was only interested if Ecoceane was to head that effort through a joint venture.
    What he was proposing and really interested to skim was not oil but a large profit margin.

    Every Story has more than one angle.

    The truth is that BP was never interested by skimmers.
    What can be skimmed can be accounted for.
    Deciders at BP had chosen instead very early on to repeat and better the use of Dispersant as in 1979 Ixtoc 1 incident.
    Corexit was already used then.
    (yet every one claims the effect of dispersant on wildlife in the gulf were never studied.)

    A policy of hiding evidences that is well illustrated by the different once the well was capped between CG Admiral Thad Allen and BP about reopening the valves and collecting all of the oil on board the various vessel as planned.
    If they had done so we might have actually known the actual flow on July 15th and that could have been very dangerous for BP.

    Marc Cleriot

    • proreason says:

      Thanks for posting Marc. Your story is interesting, and it sounds pretty complicated.

      Of course, we don’t know your motivations, but I think there is one point that probably remains whether your details are accurate or not.

      The US government should have acted to protect the interests of the people of the United States and should have legally forced all parties to do the right thing, or if it didn’t have the legal authority, then it should have made the dishonorable parties extremely uncomfortable by publicing their failures.

      The fact that we have heard nothing of the details you supply is consistent with the fact that we have a facist government that seeks only to increase its own power and cares not at all about the people of the country.

      Like Hugo Chavez.

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