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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More