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US taps into foreign assistance for Gulf oil spill

First Posted 10:04:00 06/15/2010

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WASHINGTON DC, United States?With workers locked in a race against time to stem the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the US government said Monday it has received aid offers from 17 countries and four international bodies so far.

The US State Department said it is now playing an active role in the oil spill response coordinated by President Barack Obama's administration.

It has made an informal appeal to foreign governments and international bodies such as the European Union for 18-to-24-inch-wide (46-61 centimeters) containment boom and fire boom, as well as for high speed, high capacity offshore skimmer vessels.

Diplomats are helping the government response team and BP?which leased the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded nearly two months ago?with source equipment, supplies, and services from foreign governments and international bodies.

They also forward foreign aid offers to the interagency group overseeing the spill response, locate potential sources of needed supplies and equipment, and help BP's sourcing by reaching out to foreign ministries and expediting visa processing.

The United States will pay for whatever foreign assistance it receives, the State Department said.

Some foreign governments and private companies have expressed dismay after their offers of aid were turned down.

Last week, a Norwegian oil industry group that battles spills said the United States snubbed its offer to send 5,297 cubic feet (150 cubic meters) of dispersants to clean up the Gulf of Mexico gusher because the chemicals lacked US certification.

"The dispersants we use have not been certified in the United States even though they are more environmentally friendly" than the ones currently being used, Sjur Knudsen of Nofo told AFP.

BP has used Corexit, a powerful dispersant that environmentalists have warned could cause even more damage to fragile coastlines and wildlife than the crude itself.
But the State Department said it was considering all offers of aid with care.

"All offers of assistance are considered promptly and carefully, are expedited if needed, and are appreciated greatly by the American people as we address this threat to our Gulf Coast," it said in a statement.

International aid offers already accepted include two skimmers and 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers) of boom from Mexico, three sets of sweeping arm systems from the Netherlands and 1.86 miles (3.0 kilometers) of boom from Canada, the State Department said.

The International Maritime Organization is also sending notifications about the spill to its member states and the European Commission's Monitoring and Information Center is coordinating EU aid offers.

Foreign offers of assistance have also come in the form of research and technical expertise, as well as equipment, including oil pumps.

The Unified Area Command, the interagency group coordinating the response, currently has 15 contracts for resources with other countries.

The State Department noted that it has assisted BP in directly sourcing equipment and technical experts from around the world, including from Algeria, Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Latvia, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.


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