The Coast Guard's Adm. Thad Allen told reporters the BP oil spill has broken into many smaller patches of oil across the Gulf of Mexico.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has now broken into thousands of minispills – patches of oil drifting in different directions across a vast area of ocean that stretches from Louisiana across to the Florida panhandle, and south as far as Tampa.
That means the fight to contain the spill has moved into a new phase in which the deployment of many small vessels with containment equipment has become much more important, said the Coast Guard commander in charge of the federal cleanup effort at a White House briefing on Monday.
“We’re adapting to an enemy that changes,” said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen. “The nature of this oil spill has changed from Day 1.”
There are about 100 large ships now engaged in oil skimming and dispersant operations, Allen told reporters. Crucial to the next stage of operations will be what he termed “vessels of opportunity” – about 1,500 small fishing boats and other vessels from Gulf ports whose skippers have been given a measure of skimmer training.
These boats will work from the shoreline to 50 miles out at sea once they are outfitted with booms, barrels, hoses, or other sorts of skimming equipment.
“We are moving those assets into place right now,” said Allen.
The breakup of the oil spill has both good and bad aspects, according to Allen. On the positive side, it means that oil is unlikely to come ashore in massive quantities. On the negative side, it means that there are many more patches to track and attempt to control.