WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy pollution response experts have shipped 98,000 feet of oil containment boom as of May 20, to the Gulf of Mexico, as part of the combined effort to reduce the environmental impact of the underwater oil spill at an exploratory oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.
Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) has positioned equipment and personnel from Texas to Florida to support the oil spill response efforts led by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security.
"With a single phone call from the U.S. Coast Guard, 66,000 feet of open ocean boom and nine self-contained skimming systems, and the professionals to install and operate them, were dispatched (representing the initial shipment). That's your Navy - a 24-hour Navy, incredibly ready and trained to respond to a wide variety of national taskings," said Vice Adm. Kevin McCoy, NAVSEA commander.
The Navy oil booming equipment is designed to divert the oil spill from an identified area. According to Capt. Patrick Keenan, NAVSEA's director of Ocean Engineering, Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, the booming equipment was first deployed to the western tip of Ship Island, south of Gulfport, Miss. Keenan said the Oil Containment Boom System is the primary containment equipment at an oil spill site, and consists of vans, boom, air compressors, and necessary equipment to support the various types of containment booms. SUPSALV's Oil Containment Boom Systems are portable and maintained at strategic locations in a state of readiness for rapid deployment to a spill site.
Eighty-five 18-wheelers of vital equipment arrived in Gulfport, Miss., within 48 hours of that one call, and 24 hours later NAVSEA personnel were at sea combating this terrible spill, added McCoy.
In addition to the boom systems, SUPSALV also shipped 21 oil skimming systems to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Vessel of Opportunity and Rapid Deployment Skimming Systems for oil spill clean up. Skimming systems are outfitted with the machinery that separates spilled oil from the water, stores the recovered oil, and then transfers it to an off-vessel storage facility. Keenan said a single skimming system can be set up in four hours, and if operated constantly, has a daily capacity of 1,200 barrels. Additionally, more than 90 personnel and three contracted offshore supply vessels are supporting the Coast Guard's oil response efforts.
"A team of NAVSEA professionals are working around the clock to protect the sensitive coast lined with oil booms and perform open ocean skimming at the source. NAVSEA's Chief Engineer for Underwater Salvage (Keenan) has been an integral member of BP's Engineering Command Cell that has assembled the best and brightest minds from around the world to try to stop the leak," said McCoy.
While the magnitude of this spill is unprecedented for this team, Keenan said SUPSALV personnel regularly operate their equipment at oil spill exercises around the world. He said in this type of an effort, safety standards are a key part of their operation. His team follows strict personal protection protocols and complete OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training as a standard part of their training requirements.
SUPSALV has been the Navy's oil pollution experts since the 1970s, as required by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. They provide technical, operational, and emergency support to the Navy, Department of Defense and other federal agencies in the ocean engineering disciplines of marine salvage, pollution abatement, diving, diving system certification, and underwater ship husbandry.
"The Navy is committed to protecting the environment while meeting its national security mission," said Keenan.
For more news from Naval Sea Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navsea/.