Washington, DC -- U.S. Rep. John L. Mica (R-FL), Republican leader of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today expressed his dismay to Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano that U.S.-flag vessels available to respond to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill remain idle.
Mica said, "I have been advised by U.S. flag vessel owners that the Department of Homeland Security, the National Incident Command, and other federal agencies have not accepted the services of scores of U.S.-flag, Jones Act-qualified vessels in responding to the ongoing crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. We have heard from several segments of the Jones Act fleet, and they have not heard from the Department or the Unified Command regarding deployment of their services. Nearly two months after the spill, cleanup vessels that are available sit idle. Either we have a failure to communicate or a high level of incompetence."
He noted the urgent need to employ all available assets to prevent oil from further impacting the economy and environment of the Gulf region, and urged the Secretary to immediately contact domestic operators to appeal for their help in responding to this tragedy.
U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Ranking Member, said "Despite the Administration's rhetoric about their "unprecedented response' in the Gulf, after over 50 days there are still oil spill response vessels ready and willing to help that have yet to be called upon. This is wholly unacceptable. The Secretary should immediately mobilize these assets to mitigate further economic and environmental disaster."
Mica went on to say, "U.S.-flag vessels have the capacity to bolster the current oil skimming and removal taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. Over the last couple of weeks, we have seen oil products wash up on the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida while vessels, which could have been pressed into service, sit idle. This is unacceptable."
As the Administration is contemplating the acceptance of response vessels from several foreign nations, Mica and LoBiondo urged the Secretary to first develop a process which will identify specific needs that cannot be met with U.S. assets and manpower and then work with our international partners to secure the resources necessary to minimize further damage to the Gulf economy and ecosystem.