Charter boat operator wonders why he hasn't been hired by BP - - The News for South Mississippi

Charter boat operator wonders why he hasn't been hired by BP


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) – Don Sampson grew up around a boat yard and spent most of his life on the water. Three years ago, the Bay St. Louis man launched his retirement dream -- operating a charter boat business with his wife.

"I love fishing. I know the marsh, enjoy being out there in nature," said Sampson.

Typically, between May and November, the Sampsons run three trips a week. But their boat remains docked and their business "Sophisticated Lady Charters" is sinking.

"All of our charters started canceling in the end of May, because of the oil spill and the media broadcasting all over the country how bad it was here," said Sampson.

Facing a loss of almost $87,000 in income and with mounting bills to pay, Sampson signed a contract with BP's Vessels of Opportunity Program.

"I've been trying to get hired.  We have talked to BP several times, my wife and I.  They tell us that we are in the rotation, and I've heard that for about a month.  However, we still haven't gotten called to go to work, and it's just frustrating,"  said Sampson.  "I am qualified. I'm a licensed captain. I know the area out there and I need the work bad."

If that work doesn't come soon, Sampson said his financial hardships could lead to bankruptcy.

"Because we've lost most of our income for the entire year and I'm sure next year, it's not going to be any better. I don't see any miracles coming out of this mess.  It's very frightening," he said.

While his future remains rocky, Sampson said he's also concerned about the fate of the waters and wildlife in the aftermath of the oil disaster.

"I miss fishing. I miss the people. It's just so gorgeous out there.  I just hate that there's a possibility we could lose it," said Sampson.

BP Spokesperson Lisa Houghton told WLOX News, "We are activating vessels based on our daily operational needs.  And we are working to rotate vessels to use as many commercial vessels, including charter boats, as possible."

Sampson operates his boat out of his Bay St. Louis home.  He said his boat is licensed in Louisiana and he told WLOX News he is in the process of obtaining a Mississippi license.

The DMR wants to remind boaters that only licensed Mississippi commercial fishermen and charter boat operators who were licensed before the oil spill can be recruited for the Vessels of Opportunity program.

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