June 27th, 2010
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE GULF of MEXICO ?
The actual oil leak is jury rigged to drillships "Transocean Discoverer Entersprise" and "Q4000", capturing most of the outflow, and flaring of the gas.
This operation (and the whole cleanup) may have to be stopped for two weeks if a hurricane develops. (The hurricane season has just begun in the G.O.M., so chances are high...)
The vast slick has already soiled the coastlines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but could spell disaster for Florida, one of the world's top tourist destinations.
The Gulfstream could take the oil into the Atlantic...
The nightmare scenario would be that a hurricane smears out the oil over a yet larger area.
The southern coast of the U.S. consists of river delta's, with offlying "barrier islands".
At this moment, in Louisiana, a project is on the rails to construct a 75 km, 1.8 m high sand bund, connecting the barrier islands, to protect the more vulnerable swamps from oil.
These bunds would be temporarily put in place to catch the oil, with the aid of seven cutters and five large trailer dredgers; a 360 million US$ project. Thus, the coastline could be spared. The oil-contaminated sand can be removed later on.
This project has been much delayed by red tape; oil is already washed upon Louisiana beaches.
From the first comments on the start of this project it is clear that dredging capacity is not enough: dredgers cannot be transferred from other projects, and the project take-off deserves more energy.
AND THE POLITICAL SCENE ?
With no end in sight for the oil flooding out of the well in the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Republican party, including John McCain are now becoming more aggressive in their push against the Jones Act, and for foreign aid, to help in the massive cleanup effort.
Last week John McCain introduced legislation for a total repeal of the Jones Act, a 1920 U.S. law that mandates that all goods shipped between U.S. ports must be transported in U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and U.S.-manned ships.
As a consequence of this law; foreign assistance in oil cleanup and dredging has been refused by the U.S. government at point blank.
The social dimension of the Jones Act has always stirred up a good deal of emotions in the U.S... This act guarantees the U.S. mariner work in a protected economic space.
However, the cost of shipping inside the U.S. is higher than world freight rates, and so is the price of U.S. newbuilt ships.
The downside of the Jones Act is that US. shipbuilding, - shipping and - dredging are incapable of facing foreign competition.
The U.S. dredging industry -as a consequence- is fragmented into hundreds of small companies, none of them equipped with large scale equipment, because none of them have ever been in touch with foreign competitors.
New Orleans in 2005, and today, the Louisiana coast pay the price for the lack of options, that could be offered by high capability dredging equipment.
Marc Van de Velde