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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET


Brian Wilson

Washington, DC


Skimmer Boats Available. No Interest.

June 11, 2010 - 5:08 PM | by: Brian Wilson

With millions of gallons of oil needing to be cleaned up — and with more being added to the mix every day — oil skimming boats are one of the top priorities. Four hundred are working now and they’re barely making a dent. Officials from four Gulf states are begging for more skimmer boats to protect beaches and delicate inlets. So, you might think BP and the Coast Guard would be interested in a proposal from a Dallas businessman to bring as many 25 oil clean up boats to the Gulf. But Fred McCallister says he all he’s hearing is “radio silence.”

“I think all resources that are available should be thrown at it, and I really don’t understand it. I don’t have the patience for a situation where equipment is available to take care of this type of catastrophe but nothing is happening.”

McCallister claims his proposal has been submitted through appropriate channels. He has12 boats ready to go — and a line on 13 more. The problem is they are not US owned and operated boats, and are therefore barred from working in US coastal waters by a 1920’s law known as the Jones Act.

For the past two days, officials from the Unified Command to the White House said they were prepared to waive the Jones Act if there is a need. Today White House Environmental Advisor, Carol Browner told Fox News that the Obama administration had “not received a request from the Coast Guard to waive the Jones Act.” Browner continued, “ If we have one, obviously we’ll respond to it. We talk to Admiral Allen every single day – many, many times a day. He is not shy in asking for what he needs. And so if that’s what he needs, he will get an answer.”

Admiral Thad Allen is on record saying, he would actively consider waiving the Jones Act if there was a demonstrated need to do so.

“If we have a reason to consider a waiver of the Jones Act, we certainly will do that.” Allen then quickly added, “ None has been presented to me.”

It may be that no waiver requests are making their way up the chain because the idea of waivers is being rejected by those beneath Allen.

A Lt. Commander with the Coast Guard told Fox News offers of help involving foreign ships are not being considered because they do not “meet the operational requirements of the Unified Area Command.” In a follow up phone conversation we asked — is complying with the Jones Act one of those operational requirements? “Yes,” we were told, “It does apply.”

McCallister, who was raised in Mississippi, desperately wants to help, but he is growing weary over how hard it is to get his proposal considered.

“I had somebody who is actually on the ground down there tell me that it’s some of the most disorganized activity they’ve ever seen in their lives. This is not handled in an organized fashion. You know, I’m sure that BP [tries] to make the representation that they’re doing the right thing, but where the rubber hits the road, it’s not happening.”

Joseph Carafano of the Heritage Foundation believes the Obama administration has been slow in waiving the Jones Act out of fear it will offend organized labor.

“They hate when the Jones Act gets waived and they pound on politicians when they do that. So … are we giving in to unions and not doing everything we can, or is there some kind of impediment that we don’t know about?”

Admiral Allen said today waivers must be considered on a case by case basis, but Fox News has obtained a general waiver granted by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in the days following Hurricane Katrina. According to a news article in Tradewinds Magazine, a US Customs official ruled recently that the Jones Act does not apply to foreign owned vessels installing wind turbines off the coast of Delaware.

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