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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Oil Spill Response Ships; Where Are They?

Here in the U.S., the serious oil spill recovery capability is in the hands of the Marine Spill Response Corporation (MSRC). This entity was legislated into existence after the Exxon Valdez accident. It is funded entirely with oil industry revenues.

The MSRC has 16 Oil Spill Response Vessels (OSRVs) strategically located around the country. These vessels, built by Trinity Marine (14) and Bender Shipbuilding (4) are 208' or 210' tug/utility ships capable of deploying containment boom and oil trawls. Each can recover and store 4,000 barrels of oil or an equal amount of an oil and water mix. They also have the capability to separate oil and water at sea. The vessels all have the "Responder" in their name. Hence, you have the New Jersey Responder, the Maine Responder, the Hawaii Responder, the Arctic Responder, etc.

I called the MSRC to find out how many of these vessels have been redeployed to the Gulf to assist in the oil clean-up. I'm still waiting for a call-back. I know the Maine Responder is in the Gulf. And I think it's safe to assume all the MSRC's OSRVs stationed in the Southeast U.S. are on hand, e.g. the Florida Responder, The Gulf Coast Responder, the Louisiana Responder, etc. But how many others are there?

Another question: What about these vessels of the EMSA?

Clearly, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has a completely different philosophy or strategy when it comes to oil spill response. Look at the types of vessels listed on this page. These aren't, for the most part, based on a tug/utility design. These are wet cargo carriers capable of dealing with major accidents and a lot of oil. The Arca, a Dutch OSRV, shown above in the YouTube Video, is just such a vessel. It has an oil cargo capacity of 1,000 cubic meters. That's 6,289 barrels of oil or over six times what the MSRC's OSRVs can handle. So, how many of these vessels are in the Gulf? Near as I can tell, none!


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