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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid