This week, the United States government announced that it would consider enlisting the aid of a giant oil skimmer ship known as the "A Whale" to help clean the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The vessel, a 1,100-foot converted petroleum tanker will have the ability to collect up to 500,000 barrels of contaminated water every day. Here's how it works.
The oil skimmer will collect the contaminated water through a dozen large slits on both sides of the ship. The oily water is then percolated though several tanks designed to separate the oil from the water. Then, the oil is transported to another ship, and the cleaned water is redistributed into the ocean.
There are already several much smaller oil skimmers doing this cleanup work in the Gulf, but none seem to be making a dent in the process. So, everyone has high hopes for "A Whale" as the savior. The ship has been ready for deployment since June, but has still not begun its work. This fact begs the question, "Why didn't we have this ship put into action immediately?" The answer lies in several factors, all of them nonsensical and ridiculous.
Let's begin with a little something called the Jones Act of 1920. This piece of United States legislation was passed after the end of World War I to ensure the rebuilding of the American shipping industry. In a nutshell, the act restricts the transporting of any cargo between U.S. ports to American-built ships operated by American crews. Since "A Whale" was built in South Korea, and is owned by a Taiwanese company, the Jones Act may prevent its use. President Obama has not yet waived the Jones Act, and several foreign ships ready to offer their help have already been turned away.
Don't get confused here. You may have read that the United States has accepted the help of 12 different countries. However, these countries have only been cleared to contribute things like booms and dispersant chemicals to the cleanup effort. This is minor stuff compared to the foreign ships that can really make a dent in the cleanup, but are being held at bay because of this act.
So you can't believe that the alleviation of this dire situation, involving the welfare of thousands of wildlife is going to be prevented by the enforcement of a 90-year-old law that can be waived at will? Don't worry, I can't believe it either. Let's make a quick distinction here: An oil spill is a real thing, it involves real pollution that is affecting real lives. The Jones Act is make believe. It is just an idea concocted by a bunch of self-serving individuals with ties sitting in a room somewhere. A factor such as legislation becomes completely arbitrary when applied to disasters that affect nature. The infected Gulf of Mexico does not recognize man-made law, and I am sure that the oil-drenched birds who are dying painfully pay no mind to it either. Nevertheless, it seems to be a major player in hindering the cleanup efforts in the sea.
Another reason for the delay of "A Whale"'s deployment is almost as irritating. The Environmental Protection Agency has made clear that if the ship was cleared to act in the Gulf, they would still have grave concerns about the quality of the filtered water being put back into the sea. Apparently, this water may still have traces of oil in it which could be considered harmful, so they may want to hold off on using it. Are they insane? As if the water sitting in the Gulf right now is not exponentially more contaminated that it would be if this tanker was used. Why are we not using this ship immediately to clean the overwhelmingly majority of this water, and dealing with the rest later?
This is just another example of a "do-gooder" bureaucracy getting in the way of itself. We need to drop all the rules and regulations and just fix the spill with all of the resources we have available, regardless of what flag they fly or how effective they might be. This is an all hands on deck situation, yet those hands are being tied with red tape. The United States became a superpower by being a diligent, practical country that used common sense. What happened?
And now for the most nauseating reason of all. The media has explained that even if the Jones Act was waived, and the ship was approved by the EPA to do its duty, the "A Whale" would still not be able to begin operations without a formal contract from the BP Company. That's right, if you want to know why this spill wasn't cleaned up two months ago, just follow the money. How about, "get in there NOW, clean up the spill, do what you have to do, and worry about the money later." BP has already agreed to foot the bill for the cleanup, so what's the problem? Do they really need to sit down with their lawyers and negotiate on a few million dollars?
I don't think this bird cares whether the price of BP's stock goes up or down.
This blog is not meant to be preachy, or to use graphic pictures as a tactic to make you feel angry or guilty. Rather, the point of it all is to create a medium for people to reflect on, and think critically. This is so people can understand the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico as it really is, rather than how politicians and the media portray it. Of course, no article on this topic is going to be able to remain objective, and I am not above this. I just ask that you take from it what you will, and do not let my opinion or anyone else's blur the facts for you in this matter.