Navy & Coast Guard load oil protection booms at Gulfport port - - The News for South Mississippi

Navy & Coast Guard load oil protection booms at Gulfport port

(Photo source: Demetrius Kennon/NCBC Public Affairs) (Photo source: Demetrius Kennon/NCBC Public Affairs)

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS  (WLOX) - The state port at Gulfport is being used as a supply loading area for oil spill responders. The U.S. Coast Guard's strike team is working with the Navy to help protect the barrier islands from the advancing oil.

Equipment and supplies stockpiled at the Seabee Base have been moved to the west port facility. Longshoremen are working with military crews, loading supply vessels with booms and other equipment to try and protect the barrier islands.

Longshoremen load the 265 foot "John Coghill" supply vessel with buoys, booms and other pollution control equipment. The ship will deliver 4,000 feet of 42 inch booms to areas the Coast Guard designated as "environmentally sensitive."

"We're actually headed to Ship Island today to lay some protective boom and hopefully deflect the oil away from the island where there's some environmentally sensitive areas out there," said Stephanie Brown with the U.S. Navy. "There's some pelican nesting grounds and some sensitive beach that the Coast Guard has said is their priority to protect."

The Naval Office of Supervisor of Salvage and Diving is essentially the Navy's pollution control division. Tasked to handle oil leaks from Navy ships, they also train for emergencies like this.

"So these guys have gotten a lot of practice. This is the real deal for them and they're pretty excited to get out and use their skills and work hard and get the job done," said Brown.

The state port at Gulfport has the loading equipment and trained workforce to assist.

"We're in a pretty strategic location, as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, in responding to the spill effect," said Port of Gulfport Director Don Allee. "It's ships and goods. And they have to either go out or come in. And in this case, we think we'll see a little bit of both."

The Navy team will also deploy oil-skimmer vessels from the port. They'll be used to scoop the waste oil from the water's surface once the booms deflect the crude away from the island.

"We don't have enough boom in the world to cover all the shoreline. But we're trying to do what we can and make priorities and get out there as soon as we can to protect the really sensitive areas," says Brown.

Port Director Don Allee said the oil spill has not yet impacted commercial ship traffic at the port.  He said they are prepared to deal with any contingency plans that might be needed to accommodate changes or delays in cargo shipments.

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