Early in the Gulf oil crisis, BP coined a term for the shrimping and fishing boats that were now out of business and were being pressed into service to clean up the company's mess: they were now "vessels of opportunity." Looks like that opportunity may be drying up as well.
In July, Louisiana Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) program director Judith Paul announced a new deployment plan that rotates vessels based on "extended" 14-or 30-day charters. Most participants fall in the 14-day category, performing waste removal and boom maintenance. The program was designed to rotate out-of-work fishermen into temporary jobs, but with less oil visible on the surface, the likelihood of VOO participants being rotated into action diminishes.
At a July 29 press conference in New Orleans, National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen said he had a "very productive" meeting with Gov. Bobby Jindal, parish presidents and authorities to determine "how clean is clean" in the ongoing response and what will be the future, if any, of the VOO (through August). "Obviously as we transition to where there's not as a threat of a spill ... the employment of VOO is necessarily going to have to change," he said.
"We're not sure if we really know" about the program's future, Allen added, saying similar cutbacks and reorganizations are happening "all along the coast." But, "there are things we have to get done" — like removing boom, he said. "As we move from response to recovery we're going to have to go out and recover that boom. We don't want to leave plastic, non-biodegradable boom out there forever." Another opportunity? — Alex Woodward