BP changes Vessels of Opportunity program policies - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

BP changes Vessels of Opportunity program policies

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

By Elizabeth Vowell – email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – There have been many complaints about BP's Vessels of Opportunity program since it began around eight weeks ago. Disorganization, wild rumors, and unhappy fisherman have made the system of cleaning oil seem inefficient. However, BP says new policies are being put in place to change that.

"It is an amazing thing to see, these folks really working hard to try and make sure that we've got the right things going on to clean the beaches and to make sure that we have the right people out on the waters with the right equipment and the right communications to do what's needed to keep the oil off the coast," said Margaret Laney of BP Public Affairs in Mississippi.

BP officials said they have teamed up with the Coast Guard to better organize the vessels, dividing them into task force teams with specific goals like skimming or releasing boom.  The program will also utilize more air surveillance provided by the Air National Guard. 

However, the biggest change is to which eligible vessels the program will use. 

"We have been ramping down the number of so-called recreational vessels. Our hope is to get that down to about 10 percent and we're pretty much there right now," explained the Mississippi VoO liaison David Meaux. 

Priority is being given to commercial and charter fishing vessels.  However, officials say recreational vessels will be used if there are not enough commercial vessels available.    

According to Meaux, 60-67 percent of eligible vessels are not being utilized because Mississippi waters can only handle around 800 vessels at a time.  He said this is something that will also change.

"What we are doing is we're rotating through these vessels. So we've had some vessels that have been hire for quite some time, we're deactivating some of these long term vessels in an attempt to move through the system to get some of these other 66 percent vessels who are on charter in and on the water and helping us," said Meaux. 

The VoO is organized in four staging areas across the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Pascagoula, Point cadet, Pass Christian and Bayou Caddie.

Laney points out that the program is all about getting "the right local vessels with the right capabilities." 

"It's a battle, it's a war. And the enemy is the oil. They say it almost every day and that's how they act together is that they're all in this together to try and keep the oil off our shores and to clean it up," said Laney. 

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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