Workboats and other vessels HIRED FOR oil cleanup operations

It’s estimated that 1,500 to 2,000 vessels are involved in the Deepwater Horizon / BP oil cleanup operations.

However, it is hard to determine how many of the vessels are workboats (tugs, OSVs, barges, etc.) and how many are commercial fishing vessels or charter fishing boats.

BP is hiring offshore service vessels and other boats through its Vessels of Opportunity Program. Those involved in the program have to be trained and certified. The OSVs operate with groups of 125 commercial fishing vessels, or five task forces of 25. Each task force is assigned one OSV of 190′ or longer. In addition, each task force has two crewboats that can carry up to 20 passengers each.

“We want to give the fishermen who don’t have work the first crack at the work,” said Judith Paul, a BP logistical expert assigned to the program.

As an example of how hard it is to get an exact number of vessels involved in the cleanup operations, on June 7 only 198 vessels measuring between 16′ and 40′ were involved in skimming operations in coastal waters. Another 257 were involved in other operations such as wildlife rescue, and air pollution and water pollution testing. When one looks at vessels of all sizes involved in skimming operations that same day, the number jumps to 250.

It’s safe to say that, like the boats, the number keeps moving. “There are other contractors that have vessels that are not included in these numbers,” said Paul.

And more new response vessels are on the way.

SeaArk Marine , Monticello, Ark., announced in June immediate plans to expand its production capacity to produce more of the specialty vessels used for boom and dispersant deployment, skimmer platforms and shallow-water sampling.

“We have orders for two boats directly related to [the oil spill],” said John McClendon, SeaArk’s president and CEO. “If we can help rectify this problem, that’s what we want to do.”

McClendon said the boats will each measure 26’x8’6″and carry skimming systems. He wouldn’t disclose which company ordered the boats. In addition, SeaArk is building two spec boats that will carry boom systems.

“[Our boats] are built to take whatever our customers can dish out,” McClendon said. “It depends on usage and how well they clean it in this instance.”

Metal Shark Boats , Jeanerette, La., is also ramping up production of its aluminum patrol boats that can be used in cleanup operations. “There is a lot of local and regional cleanup going on,” said company spokesman Brian Johnston. “Some folks need these boats in a hurry.” – Ken Hocke

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