News / USA

Dutch say They Could Speed Gulf Oil Recovery with US Permission

Greg Flakus

In Louisiana and other states on the Gulf of Mexico there is frustration over what many residents see as a slow response by the U.S. government to protecting coastal areas.  Some critics of the Obama administration cite offers by the Netherlands in April to supply sophisticated skimmers and dredging devices, and the administration's failure to accept the offer. The issue is as murky as the oil slick now threatening regional beaches.

A Houston-based company is now cleaning oil off surface water in the Gulf of Mexico using sweeping arms that attach to a boat and help gather large amounts of oil.  These sophisticated devices were provided by a Dutch company with years of experience in such operations, but instead of using the Dutch ships and crews immediately, when The Netherlands offered help in April, the operation was delayed until U.S. crews could be trained.  

The Obama administration declined the Dutch offer partly because of the Jones Act, which restricts foreign ships from certain activities in U.S. waters.  During the Hurricane Katrina crisis five years ago, the Bush administration waived the Jones Act in order to facilitate some foreign assistance, but such a waiver was not given in this case.

The Dutch also offered assistance with building sand berms (barriers) along the coast of Louisiana to protect sensitive marshlands, but that offer was also rejected, even though Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal had been requesting such protective barriers.

A spokesman for the Dutch embassy in Washington, Floris Van Hovell, tells VOA his country stands ready to help in the Gulf.

"We see the oil coming in, we see that there is Dutch capacity," said  Floris Van Hovell. "We do not want to change the rules here.  We do not want to come in and tell everybody how to do it, but we do see that we have something that is very helpful.  We have been saying this for a number of weeks, but the process seems to be rather slow."

Louisiana and The Netherlands have developed strong ties since Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans five years ago.  The European nation has developed special expertise in protecting its lower than sea-level land for centuries with a system of dikes.  The country, home to the Royal Dutch Shell oil company, also has experience with mitigating oil spills in the North Sea and elsewhere.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs last week rejected the idea that the Jones Act has caused any problem in regard to the Gulf cleanup, but he said the president would provide a waiver if one is needed.

"We are using equipment and vessels from countries like Norway, Canada, The Netherlands," said Robert Gibbs. "There has not been any problem with this.  If there is the need for any type of waiver that would obviously be granted, but we have not had that problem."

But critics say delays in accepting foreign assistance may have caused unnecessary damage to some coastal areas.  They also fault BP for not having its own emergency plan and for not reaching out to foreign companies with special expertise early on.

Floris Van Hovell says Dutch dredging ships could complete the sand berms in Louisiana twice as fast as the local companies contracted for the work, if allowed to do so.

"Basically, within the United States, as far as I have been given to understand, there is fairly limited capacity to execute this plan quickly," he said. "Of course, given the oil spill, given the fact that there is so much oil on a daily basis coming in, you do not have that much time to protect the marshlands."

U.S. policy has favored the use of American companies and employees in dealing with the oil spill, even though that may have caused delays in protecting sensitive shoreline.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has expressed gratitude for federal approval of part of his plan to build barriers, but he has stressed the need for quick action.

"We have really only got two options," said Bobby Jindal. "We can either fight this oil off of our coast and protect Louisiana or we are going to be spending months and years removing oil along thousands of miles of fragmented wetlands that serve as a critical nursery for marine wildlife for the Gulf and for our country."

But the effectiveness of the sand berm defense has been questioned by some marine experts and officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that must approve such plans.  The barriers, built with sand dredged up near the shore, could have negative long-term effects by impeding natural water flows.  But many people in Louisiana are more worried about the short term, as they see the environmental impact washing up on their shores every day.   

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs