Just got off a BP media conference call on the Vessels of Opportunity program. After eights weeks since the first VOO contract was signed, BP is reconfiguring the program.
Judith Labanski (spelling?), who heads the VOO program at the Mobile Unified Command Center said that BP will utilize air surveillance from Tyndall AFB more. They will reorganize the vessels into task forces and strike teams that will have specific tasks, such as boom deployment, skimming and wildlife recovery.
A rotation system will be established based on the local operational conditions and the focus will be on using commercial fishing and charter boats. Recreational boats will only be used when no suitable commercial or charter boat is available.
Matt Kessinger (spelling?), who handles the VOO for BP in Alabama, said, “We are entering a new phase of operations, which is more complex.” He said the first vessels were limited to finding oil and tracking it.
“We are reconfiguring with professional mariners,” Kessinger said. BP is working with the commercial fishing and charter boat associations in Orange Beach and Bayou LaBatre to identify the “professional mariners.”
He also said the BP wants more equitable participation in the VOO. Fleets will be allowed one boat in the program at a time, until all other boat owners are given an opportunity to participate.
I asked how many vessels would be used under these new rules. Labanski said it will be demand driven by operations and established by each operational site. In other words, they don’t know.
Kessinger said that they are using about 1,000 vessels in Alabama currently, of which 90 percent are commercial.