Gulf Oil Spill impact on Yacht Charters – current status

We’ve been watching the Gulf Oil spill carefully, and will publish news of this environmental disaster with respect to its impact on the yachting industry as the news comes in.

The current situation is this:

Thursday, June 3, although the situation in the Gulf continues to be closely monitored by NOAA scientists, they remain unable to predict how much oil will be caught in the Loop Current. Onshore winds of 10-15 knots are forecast for the next couple of days that will move surface oil towards the Mississippi/Alabama barrier islands. Offshore satellite imagery shows scattered, narrow bands of oil to the SE and ESE of the main slick that will most likely continue to be sucked into the large clockwise eddy (Eddy Franklin) that has formed off the main Loop Current. There is a possibility that some of this oil sheen will be caught in the Loop Current and move toward the Florida Straits. Meanwhile, BP has just succeeded in completing the second cut to the damaged pipe and engineers are preparing to affix the cap over the pipe and connect it by a riser to a drill ship.

Wednesday, June 2, we asked several Captains located in South Florida to comment on the crisis and potential effects on the charter industry. Here are some of their responses:

Rick Lenardson: œI know guys in the gulf that are devastated but we cruise mainly in the Bahamas and are not worried yet. However, storms may spread oil everywhere and then it will definitely be picked up by the Gulf Stream.

Mike Petty: œWhole bunch of ifs “ bunch of hearsay.

Kelly Klicker: œWe have a New England itinerary that we will change if necessary but haven’t changed it yet.

Anonymous: œNews media hypes things up so much. I grew up in Florida and remember tar on the beach as a child. I’ve been involved with boats all my life. What we need is an accident plan to be ready to deal with spill. Yacht owners must have a plan, why doesn’t BP?

Karen Anderson: œMy heart bleeds for the sea life. I just returned from the American Superyacht Forum in Newport and one guest speaker discussed several known safety devices that should have been on that pipe. BP was negligent by not investing in necessary precautions.

Tuesday, June 1, BP has successfully cut into the riser pipe of the well using the mechanical arms of robotic submarines. The plan is to bring in a diamond saw by Thursday to make a clean cut and affix a cap to stop the flow. Like œtop kill, this operation has risks and success is unpredictable. Regardless, BP expects to complete relief wells by August, planned to reduce pressure on the leaking well that will allow the flow to be stopped. BP has spent more than $1 billion to clean up the oil and on Wall Street their stock is down by 30%.

Wednesday, May 26, Deep Horizon Response announced that “the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter, a 224-foot fisheries research vessel, will embark on a water column and fisheries sampling mission in the Gulf of Mexico using its sophisticated sonar equipment to help define the plume near the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill site and adjacent waters.” At noon Eastern time, BP began their “top kill” procedure, which involves pumping heavy fluids into a five-story stack of pipes to plug the well. This untried procedure might take several days to prove effective.

On Sunday May 23, NASA scientists, analyzing satellite imagery, concluded that a large eddy between the oil spill and the Loop Current could keep some oil from reaching the Florida Straits and the Gulf Stream. This could also aid BP efforts to chemically disperse the oil before reaching shore. According to NOAA, the oil, if caught in the powerful clockwise eddy, may not reach the Florida Straits at all. The few tar balls that have been found on Florida Keys beaches have been tested by the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Laboratory in Connecticut and are not from the Deep Horizon oil spill.

On Saturday, May 22, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sent a team of experts to Cuba, headed by Eulogio Del Pino, vice president of exploration and production for state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, in response to reports of approaching streams of oil. The team will carry out simulation drills to prepare in the event the oil reaches Cuban waters.

Latest observations on May 19, 2010 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate that a small portion of the oil slick has reached the Loop Current in the form of light to very light sheens. Fishing charters on the Gulf Coast are being canceled from Texas to Pensacola. Deepwater Horizon continues to discharge an estimated 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day. BP has promised large sums of money to compensate both charter captains and fisherman and has opened eight claims offices in Florida. While exploring other means to stop the flow, BP continues to treat the oil spill with chemicals, which is a growing concern to environmentalists.

The serious question for the yachting industry is to what extent the oil spill will drift down the West Coast of Florida, around Key West, and up into the Atlantic Gulf Stream. On May 17, scientists, scholars, and BP executives met at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in response to computer models that show a likelihood the oil, carried by the eastward flowing Loop Current, may reach the Florida Keys and Key Biscayne within a week. At this time it is not expected to drift further north.

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