by Dian L. Chu
June 10, 2010
Despite the vow by President
Obama to keep the Gulf oil
spill a top priority until the damage is cleaned up, 50 days after
the BP rig exploded, a definitive date and meaningful solution is
yet to be determined for the worst oil spill in the U.S. history.
So, you would think if someone is willing to handle the clean-up
with equipment and technology not available in the U.S., and
finishes the job in shorter time than the current estimate, the U.S.
should jump on the offer.
But it turned out to be quite the opposite...
Help on Oil Spill
According to Foreign Policy, thirteen entities had offered
the U.S. oil spill assistance within about two weeks of the Horizon
They were the governments of Canada,
Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway,
Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and
the United Nations.
The U.S. response - Thank you, but no thank you, we've got it.
"...While there is no need right now
that the U.S. cannot meet, the U.S. Coast Guard is assessing
these offers of assistance to see if there will be something
which we will need in the near future."
Blame It On
The Jones Act?
Separately, Belgian newspaper De Standaard also reported
Belgian and Dutch dredgers have technology in-house to fight the oil
spill in the Gulf of Mexico, butthe Jones Act forbids them to work
in the U.S.
A Belgian group - DEME - contends it can clean up the oil in three
to four months with specialty vessel and equipment, rather than an
estimated nine months if done only by the U.S. The article noted
there are no more than 5 or 6 of those ships in the world and the
top specialist players are the two Belgian companies- DEME and De
Nul - and their Dutch competitors.
The U.S. does not have the similar technology and vessel to
accomplish the cleanup task because those ships would cost twice as
much to build in the U.S. than in the Far East.
The article further criticizes this
"great technological delay" is a direct consequence of the Jones
What Is The
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a United States Federal statute
that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S.
Section 27, also known as the Jones
Act, deals with coastal shipping; and requires that all goods
transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag
ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and
crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.
The purpose of the law is to support the U.S. merchant marine
Critics said that the legislation
results in increased costs moving cargoes between U.S. ports, and in
essence, is protectionism, Supporters of the Act maintain that the
legislation is of strategic economic and wartime interest to the
Service Sector - Offshore Subsea Specialist
As discussed in my analysis of the oil service sector, the European
companies typically possess the know-how in offshore and subsea;
whereas their North American counterparts excel in onshore drilling
and production technologies.
So, it is more than likely that European firms do have the expertise
to clean up the spill quicker and more effectively as DEME asserts.
Since the Jones Act means the Belgian ship and personnel
cannot work in the Gulf, it does seem the Act has inhibited
technology and knowledge exchange & development, and possibly
prevented a quicker response to the oil spill.
On the other hand, waivers of the Jones may be granted by the
Administration in cases of national emergencies or in cases of
It would appear the U.S. government's
initial refusal to foreign help most likely stemmed from a mis-calculation
of the scale and deepwater technological barriers for this
unprecedented disaster, and/or perhaps... pride...
Whatever the rationale, and if De Standarrd's claim that the Jones
Act forbids the European companies to help fight the spill is true,
it is high time the U.S. government grant the Jones waiver, and let
this be an international collaborative effort.
It's always better late than never.