Steffy: U.S. and BP slow to accept Dutch expertise – Houston Chronicle

Posted by Henry Taksier, June 12, 2010

By LOREN STEFFY Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help.

It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands.

The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.

Now, almost seven weeks later, as the oil spewing from the battered well spreads across the Gulf and soils pristine beaches and coastline, BP and our government have reconsidered.

U.S. ships are being outfitted this week with four pairs of the skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days. Each pair can process 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.

At that rate, how much more oil could have been removed from the Gulf during the past month?

The uncoordinated response to an offer of assistance has become characteristic of this disaster’s response. Too often, BP and the government don’t seem to know what the other is doing, and the response has seemed too slow and too confused.

Federal law has also hampered the assistance. The Jones Act, the maritime law that requires all goods be carried in U.S. waters by U.S.-flagged ships, has prevented Dutch ships with spill-fighting equipment from entering U.S. coastal areas.

“What’s wrong with accepting outside help?” Visser asked. “If there’s a country that’s experienced with building dikes and managing water, it’s the Netherlands.”

Even if, three days after the rig exploded, it seemed as if the Dutch equipment and expertise wasn’t needed, wouldn’t it have been better to accept it, to err on the side of having too many resources available rather than not enough?

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