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Thursday 18 December  
Gulf of Mexico
Johan Huizinga's picture
Gulf of Mexico, United States of America
Gulf of Mexico, United States of America

Dutch oil spill response team on standby for US oil disaster

Published on : 4 May 2010 - 11:44am | By Johan Huizinga (photo: ANP)
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Two Dutch companies are on stand-by to help the Americans tackle an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico. The two companies use huge booms to sweep and suck the oil from the surface of the sea. The US authorities, however, have difficulties with the method they use.

What do the Dutch have that the Americans don’t when it comes to tackling oil spills at sea? “Skimmers,” answers Wierd Koops, chairman of the Dutch organisation for combating oil spills, Spill Response Group Holland.

Oil spill disasters

Oiled bird
In 2010
a BP oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico blew out, leading to a 205 million gallon oil spill
In 1989
the US tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in William Sound off Alaska.
In 1978
360 kilometres of the coast of Brittany was polluted with oil from the Liberian tanker Amoco Cadiz, which broke in two.
In 1999
Erika, a tanker registered in Malta, ran into rocks off Brittany and polluted 200 kilometres of the French coastline.
In 1992
the Spanish Galician coast was polluted after the Greek tanker Aegean Sea broke in two and exploded.
In 1988
an explosion on the Northsea platform Piper Alpha, almost 200 kilometres north of Aberdeen in Scotland, killed 167 people were killed and the damage amounted to almost a billion euros. 62 workers survived, many of them by diving into the sea.
In 1967
one of the earliest oil disasters occurred when the tanker Torrey Canyon ran aground off the English south coast.

The 2010 leak in the Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico could prove the worst ever oil pollution in the history of the United States. Up to then oil platforms seldom caused major environmental disasters.

The biggest environmental disaster caused by an oil platform before 2010 was in March 2001 when the P-36 belonging to Brazil's oil company Petrobras leaked. The oil slick measured 400 square kilometres. By comparison: the Deepwater Horizon spill already covers an area of almost 10,000 square kilometres.

In the 1980s in particular, many oil platforms capsized across the world as the result of hurricanes, with hundreds of people losing their lives.

The Americans don’t have spill response vessels with skimmers because their environment regulations do not allow it. With the Dutch method seawater is sucked up with the oil by the skimmer. The oil is stored in the tanker and the superfluous water is pumped overboard. But the water does contain some oil residue, and that is too much according to US environment regulations.[media:factfile1]

US regulations contradictory
Wierd Koops thinks the US approach is nonsense, because otherwise you would have to store the surplus seawater in the tanks as well.

“We say no, you have to get as much oil as possible into the storage tanks and as little water as possible. So we pump the water, which contains drops of oil, back overboard.”

US regulations are contradictory, Mr Knoops stresses. Pumping water back into the sea with oil residue is not allowed. But you are allowed to combat the spill with chemicals so that the oil dissolves in the seawater. In both cases, the dissolved oil is naturally broken down quite quickly.

It is possible the Americans will opt for the Dutch method as the damage the oil spill could cause to the mud flats and salt marshes along the coast is much worse, warns Wetland expert Hans Revier.

“You have to make sure you clear up the oil at sea. As soon as the oil reaches the mud flats and salt marshes, it is too late. The only thing you can do then is dig it up. But then the solution is worse than the problem.”

Wadden Sea experiments
Hans Revier, lector in Marine Wetland Studies at the Stenden College in Leeuwarden, recollects experiments in the Dutch Wadden Sea wetlands. When combined oil and gas pipelines were to be laid in the area, experiments to combat potential oil spills were held.

“It turned out that dissolving the oil with chemicals caused more damage than the oil itself. And burning the oil didn’t help either. That leaves just one solution: to allow nature to take its course. It took almost ten years for the oil to break down naturally from the tanker Amoco Cadiz which stranded off the French coast in 1978 and for the environment to recover.”

That leaves the Americans no alternative. If they want to save the mud flats and salt marshes along the coast they will have to adopt the Dutch method. It can be done very quickly, because only the oil skimmers need to be flown across the Atlantic and placed on local tankers, explains Mr Koops.

Senator convinced
A team of around eight men are on stand-by and four skimmers and extra material are ready to be loaded. The local senator is already convinced and is trying to talk the admiral who is coordinating the operation into accepting help from the Netherlands. The answer may be given today.

But nothing is certain. In 1989, a Dutch team and equipment had already been flown in to tackle the Exxon Valdez oil tanker disaster off the coast of Alaska. But in the end the US authorities sent them home.



Stepanie 3 November 2014 - 2:52am / Denmark

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issues. To the next! Best wishes!!

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Skimmer 13 December 2011 - 7:46am / Australia

Oil Spill Skimmer are remediation devices used to remove oil from the surface of water,solvents,cleaning solutions,and other fluids.Our Range of Oil Recovery Skimmers are selective oil skimmers designed to remove oil spills from water. These oil skimmers are available in a range of sizes and in pneumatic or hydraulic drive for oil spill response or industrial use.

Paul Salisbury 17 May 2011 - 2:53am

This is great news as the Dutch are truly experts in spill clean-up. Though I can't imagine BP taking advantage of this expertise as it would likely be perceived as a failure on their part.

Harry from Florida 4 July 2010 - 7:25am / USA--the new Banana Republic

FINALLY, permission was granted to the Dutch, thank you my friends. The American mishandling of this accident turned self-inflicted disaster will be studied by war colleges, business schools and and historians for eons.

Anonymous 1 July 2010 - 11:14pm / USA

Ships from the Netherlands have been on-site since at least June 14, according to

D Mathy 25 June 2010 - 2:38am / USA

Obama is the worst president in US history. Where is the specialized equipment from all over the world ?
Where are the round table meetings with experts from several oil companies there to help ? The American people elected a charasmatic orator rather than an executive. I really don't blame Obama any more he has
shown that he has no idea what he is doing. I blame my fellow Americans, perhaps fed up with Bush, for this fiasco of historical proportions. When a president can't name the enemy in a war against radical Islamic terrorists, but uses war language for a civilian disaster, he has no place in our government except perhaps the mail room. Shame on all of you who voted for this tragic ridiculous narcissist.

Anonymous 2 July 2010 - 4:03pm / USA

You're either an Obama hater, or have forgotten about G.W. Bush....his two wars, his broken economy and his Administration's response to Hurricane Katrina (not to mention his total ignoring from Clinton about bin Laden's plans to use airplanes to attack the US). Obama the "worst president" ever? I guess you're too young or ignorant to remember Herbert Hoover. Let's blame Obama, rather than BP and its inability and/or unwillingness to have a fix for a problem they claimed could never happen.

Tom from Colorado 30 June 2010 - 8:02pm / USA

@D Mathy,

Please...Suggesting the every stupid thing the government does is the responsibility of the president is naive. If we had an omnipotent president, then maybe, just maybe, you would have a point. The Obama administration didn't write these regulations. It's very likely that they were written after the Exxon Valdez disaster by members of the George H. W. Bush administration. Or they could have been written by members of a Democratic administration after the Clean Water Act was passed. In either case, the regulations were written because of specific provisions of a law passed by the U.S. Congress. The writers of the law may be at fault OR the writers of the regulations. Drawing the conclusion that Obama is the worst president the U.S. has ever had from this article just shows any objective observer that you already thought that and just wanted another opportunity to say it. I remember Nixon, Carter and Reagan...they all had good points and bad. The GHW Bush administration sent a Dutch team that showed up in Alaska back home without using their help. Does that make GHW Bush the second worst president?

The EPA regulations mentioned in this article don't make sense. They need to be changed. Grade Obama, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, and congressional Democrats on how quickly they get the rules changed. Grade congressional Republicans on how much the help for the sake of the citizens of the Gulf Coast or how much they hinder to make Obama and Democrats look bad in spite of the effect on the citizens of the Gulf Coast.

Cpm 3 July 2010 - 5:47pm

Except Obama claimed he was omnipotent, or that was how he was sold. It's about leadership and he is sorely lacking.

Anonymous 30 June 2010 - 12:10am / Canada

My question to you is do actually really believe that Bush would have done better? seriously? I believe likely Obama is doing the best he can, however it is likely the oil companies that have tied his hands, but at least he tries. Bush wouldn't have given a rats as about the Ocean. At least when you see Obama he is sincerely trying his best, and you can believe what he has to say. Bush god, he'll tell you anything but like hell it was true. However, in saying this I must agree it should now become a world issue this is the worlds ocean and it should not be dealt with on a local level any more. I would like to ask why it hasn't become a world issue? is it the oil companies that have prevented it??? I can't see Obama stopping the world from helping..... and if so what would be his reasoning....

Harry from Florida 4 July 2010 - 7:39am

The pitiful, lackluster, incompetent effort may be the best he can do but it is not good enough. Bill Clinton, in 15 seconds, came up with a brilliant strategy, none of the keypoints included attending fundraisers, ttending McCartney concerts, playing golf, or just generally foolin' around.

Obama is a disaster, and the Gulf of Mexico is proof.

Anonymous 26 June 2010 - 9:18pm / USA

Give it a rest. Oh, and give me a break! Obama is far from the worst US President ever. In recent years, George W. Bush (who obviously is more of what you would vote for as president) was the worst....let us not forget the thousands of men and women killed and maimed in an unnecessary war that he started. I always hold human life in front of the environment as a priority. Not to say that this environmental disaster is not the largest ever in drilling history. (At least we are not hearing all that "drill, baby, drill" stuff nowadays from ex-governor Palin and her crowd.)

Why do you not ask what BP did or did not do to cause all of this? Obama did not cause this. Further, there was nothing to keep BP from hiring every single company of the Dutch to assist, was there?

Anonymous 28 June 2010 - 1:45am / USA

Why does it have to be a republican democrat thingy. They are all bad. To me there is only one party, the republican democrat party. This party will not let anyone else play. There is only a mater of degree. The progressive movement has control and their aim in an all powerful central government. An all powerful government always ends the same way whether they be fascist or communist. Where I would like to see this move is to a weak central government like George Washington and friends envisioned. "We give you a republic, if you can keep it." Ben Franklin

Anonymous 27 June 2010 - 1:33am / USA

You should give the DNC talking points a rest yourself and think for a change. Obama is the worse president we have EVER had and he has spent more in two years than ALL of the prior presidents combined! We have lots more soliders in Afgahnistan under him than Bush lost in 7 years.I can not fathom that they turned down any help Impeach the B*stard for this! It's GULF not golf dumb@$$!

Sky Pete 30 June 2010 - 4:22pm

You are Obviously getting your Talking Points from Hannity.... "he has spent more in two years than ALL of the prior presidents combined! " First of all he's only been in office for 16 months, so the two years thing is WRONG. Bush Jr. Had spent a total of ~$21 TRILLION over 8 year term in office. The Obama administration had only spent ~280 BILLION dollars in fy2009 which ended in OCT 2009 , the rest 2 .9Trillion was left from the previous administration OBLIGATIONS ... And this is while he has been dealing with the two wars and economic mess left to him by G.W. Bush. The Obama Administration also made four significant accounting changes, to more accurately report the total spending by the Federal government. The four changes were: 1) account for the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (”overseas military contingencies”) in the budget rather than through the use of “emergency” supplemental spending bills; 2) assume the Alternative Minimum Tax will be indexed for inflation; 3) account for the full costs of Medicare reimbursements; and 4) anticipate the inevitable expenditures for natural disaster relief. These changes would make the debt over ten years look $2.7 trillion larger, but that debt was always there. It was just hidden The President's budget for 2010 totals $3.55 trillion in Spending where 2.184 trillion is mandatory. SO YOU SEE YOUR HANNITY-BASED ASSERTION IS QUITE ABSURD.....!

C Burton 25 June 2010 - 5:46pm / US

D Mathy - Stop shooting from the hip & come with some real facts. Otherwise you're just wasting your time & enery spewing bs! Worst pres in history? Clearly you're not up on any history - W had 8 years to prove he was a f**k up - can you at least give Obama 4? Geez! How about you run for prez since you know so much - DO IT!

Gerry 17 June 2010 - 2:48am

NOS Journaal (Dutch News) reports today that a Dutch Company has been asked by the U.S. to "teach" America how to skim oil and to build berms. 2 of the 3 tankers are currently working and the 3rd is being fitted. They have been skimming now for 2 days and its working perfectly and they are training Americans in how to work these skimming arms. The Dutchman in charge says that the only problem he's encountered is the U.S. workers only understand inches and feet, whereas the rest of the world works in the metric system. So that requires a bit of converting. But so far so good. YEAY!
Why didn't they accept the help 3 days after disaster struck?

Capt. von Bergen 18 June 2010 - 6:16am / usa

Can you give me any information on these portable Dutch booms and the company that installed them. The basis for this question is we have two US flag oil barges of 10,000 bbl capacity that we would like to install similar booms. To our knowledge the current president has yet to waiver the Jones Act, which make no sense. I was of the unstanding the Dutch Government owns these light booms that be delivered by cargo plane. Any contact point would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.................

Anonymous 23 June 2010 - 10:53pm / The Netherlands

From my understanding Koseq is leading the operation, there are lots of video's on youtube on how the use the skimmers and the equipment. Also I believe our government has 23 of these sweeping arms and offered 4 with 6 more coming from europe. And perhaps calling the American Embassy in the NL so they can lobby for other equipment to be send as well.

Gerry 19 June 2010 - 5:52pm

Capt. von Bergen
Are you on the scene in Louisiana? If so can you share with us whether you have seen ANY large tankers with the skimming arms, skimming off oil, as we are let to believe? One would think if they were there they'd be covered by the news media. I have yet to see them on tv. Has anyone else?

Gerry 18 June 2010 - 9:47pm

The booms are solid, attached to a metal frame. They are about 2.5 feet high and able to withstand 15kph winds. According to what I read they belong to the "Rijkswaterstaat" which is the Dutch Government. The Government has offered them to the U.S. but received a "thanks but no thanks" Unlike the booms we have, which are good in rivers but not the sea, these were designed to work in the North Sea which has very strong currents. The skimming arms, from what I have read, functions somewhat like a broom that gathers up the oil, then skims it all into a large tanker, after which the water is separated from the oil and thrown overboard. The idea is to get as much oil and get rid of the water. We need mega tankers for this which the U.S. does not have. The boom is different from the skimming arms. I believe you're asking about the skimming equipment. I understand they are on its way. I heard somewhere, but cannot confirm it that two large tankers are currently operating with this equipment while a third is being outfitted with these skimming arms. Dutch crews are teaching Americans to use them. I would contact the nearest Dutch Embassy/Consulate for the proper contact. The issue is finding very large tankers which we do not have and they need to be re-registered to U.S. flag in order to work within our waters. I want to point out thought that this Jones Act is a crock. In the 70s my husband was party to U.S. State Department negotiations with the Soviet Union for the sale of U.S.grain. He was a grain company executive. He was sequestered into a NY City hotel for 2 nights and 3 days. I happened to be working for the grain company's ship's chartering department. Shipping was 50% U.S. flag/50% Soviet flag. I did the charter parties/contracts on those ships. Soviet bulk carriers came and went to U.S. ports to pick up grain. So why anyone is bawling about the Jones Act, while this disaster is worsening by the minute, is beyond me. There is something else at play here. We need to figure out what that is.

Anonymous 18 June 2010 - 9:16am / Netherlands

My advice to you would be to go via company that produces the sweeping arms. Since this company also produces and delivers these sweeping arms to the dutch government (which has several more of these sweeping arms in stock if I recall correctly) they should be able to get you in touch with the right department/people within the dutch government (which will probably be 'Het ministerie van Verkeer en Rijkswaterstaat', link ''. Note that this site is in Dutch).
The name of the company that produces these portable Dutch sweeping arms is 'Koseq'. The webpage of the company is
This website also contains contact information as to how you can contact the company ( --> Menu-option: Contact).

Gerry 18 June 2010 - 9:58pm

Contact your nearest Dutch Embassy/Consulate. They have the information and will guide you straight to the proper party. Everyone speaks English. Going to a Dutch website gets you nowhere. Officials channels are always the best.

Gerry 18 June 2010 - 9:51pm

Contact your nearest Dutch Embassy/Consulate. They have the information and will guide you straight to the proper party. Everyone speaks English. Going to a Dutch website gets you nowhere.

Kevin 17 June 2010 - 6:44pm / Costa Rica

Thats the best news I have heard since this disaster began! It saddens me greatly though, that Obama
and his administartion took so long to accept help from the Dutch govt. It just demonstrates how ill equipped he is to be president. The fact that the Dutch offered to help in the Exxon Valdez disaster makes
the whole thing even worse, if thats possible. The dutch skimming technolgy should have been ready to go in the event of any major spill in the US. The politicians are going to be the demise of us all!

Gerry 17 June 2010 - 9:08pm

Just learned that the company is Borsalis, the biggest dredger company in the world. They will build berms of 6 ft hight - 75 ft long. Not a full proof system but better than nothing. They are also bringing or have already brought the skimming arms (they work sort of like a broom gathering up the oil which is than sucked up) These arms belong to the Dutch Government, not to Borsalis. Borsalis will teach the use of these "arms" The vessel had to operate under U.S. flag.......go figure

Something is wrong either with my computer or the website because my last few posts are double. I apologize. Het spijt me, doe ik iets fout?

Gerry 17 June 2010 - 2:47am

NOS Journaal (Dutch News) reports today that a Dutch Company has been asked by the U.S. to "teach" America how to skim oil and to build berms. 2 of the 3 tankers are currently working and the 3rd is being fitted. They have been skimming now for 2 days and its working perfectly and they are training Americans in how to work these skimming arms. The Dutchman in charge says that the only problem he's encountered is the U.S. workers only understand inches and feet, whereas the rest of the world works in the metric system. So that requires a bit of converting. But so far so good. YEAY!
Why didn't they accept the help 3 days after disaster struck?

Anonymous 16 June 2010 - 10:07pm / Switzerland

To the Dutch company, Cuba will welcome you to collect the oil - please do.

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